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Israeli Archeologist Discloses Muslim Room Under Disputed Ramp


An Israeli archeologist says a Muslim prayer room has been found underneath a ramp near Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

The disclosure, by Israeli government archeologist Yuval Baruch, has fueled new controversy over Israeli excavations at the site.

Writing on an Israeli government website, the archeologist says the room was discovered in 2004, when the ramp leading to the al-Aqsa Mosque collapsed. He says the room may have been part of an ancient Muslim school.

Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot says the room dates to the 11th century.

The director Adnan Husseini of the Islamic group Waqf that overseas Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, has criticized Israel for not having told Muslim authorities about the find.

Israeli excavations alongside the Mughrabi ramp have sparked Muslim protests. Islamic officials fear Israeli excavations could damage the foundations below the mosques.

Israel has said there is no danger to the Muslim sites.

Last week, Israel postponed plans for a new ramp while continuing controversial excavations.

The al-Aqsa Mosque is Islam's third holiest site. It sits on an ancient esplanade, which Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary. Jews call it the Temple Mount because it was the site of two ancient Jewish temples.

Jews pray below the esplanade at the Western Wall, a retaining wall of the Roman period temple.

The site has been a flash point between Israel and the Palestinians. Muslim worshippers have frequently clashed with Israeli troops during controversies over the site.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.