Islamic religious authorities in East Jerusalem have spoken of “suspicious” Israeli excavation work in the vicinity of Al Aqsa Mosque.
The work is being carried out in an area adjacent to the outer base of Al Aqsa Mosque by Israel's antiquities authority and an Israeli settler group, the Islamic Awqaf, Affairs and Holy Sites Council said.
“A group of workers, with bulldozers and excavation equipment, have been working with suspicious haste in the area,” the council said in a statement.
It said earth was being removed and holes were being made in walls towards the south of the mosque.
The council said it had for months monitored damage to archaeological stones in the area by workers hired by Israeli settler groups.
“The council warns of the continued sabotage and attempts to change the historical and religious features of these historical sites,” it said.
It called for an immediate halt of excavation work in the vicinity of Al Aqsa Mosque.
Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City is a site considered holy by Muslims and Jews, and is a focal point of Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Known as Haram Al Sharif to Muslims, the compound includes Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
Muslims believe that the Prophet Mohammed travelled from Makkah to Jerusalem and ascended to heaven from the site.
Jews consider the area the most sacred place in Judaism, as they believe it was once the site of two temples.
Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City, from Jordan during the war of 1967 and then annexed the area. Israel later declared a unified Jerusalem to be its capital, but that move has not been recognised by the international community.