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Israeli leaders decry U.N. resolution that declares Abraham's tomb as Palestinian heritage site

(Reuters/Ammar Awad)An Israeli soldier walks past Ibrahimi Mosque, which Jews call the Jewish Tomb of the Patriarchs, in the West Bank city of Hebron July 7, 2017.

Israeli leaders have decried a UNESCO resolution that declared Hebron's Old City and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as endangered Palestinian heritage sites.

On Friday, 12 member states of the World Heritage Committee voted in favor of a UNESCO resolution that recognized Hebron's Old City and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as Palestinian heritage sites. The resolution would register the two sites in UNESCO's World Heritage List and would consider them as being in danger, which means that the committee will convene each year to discuss them.

According to Jewish tradition, the Tomb of the Patriarchs is where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, along with their wives, were buried. The site, also known as the Ibrahimi Mosque, is also revered by Muslims, who see Abraham as a patriarch through his son, Ishmael.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the resolution "delusional," and vowed to continue protecting the Tomb of Patriarchs.

In response to the vote, Netanyahu decided to cut $1 million from the membership fees paid by Israel to the U.N., Haaretz reported.

In May, Netanyahu had cut UN funding by $1 million following UNESCO's resolution that criticized Israeli policy in Jerusalem and Gaza. The prime minister also cut the fees by $2 million in April in response to a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution regarding Israeli settlements.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also condemned the Friday's vote, saying the resolution "proves once again that the organization is determined to keep disseminating anti-Jewish lies while staying silent as the regional heritage is being erased by brutal extremists."

Naftali Bennett, Israel's education minister and chairman of the country's committee to UNESCO, insisted that the Jewish link to Hebron goes back a thousand years and will not be severed.

"It's disappointing and embarrassing to see UNESCO denying history and distorting reality time after time to knowingly serve those who try to wipe the Jewish state off the map," Bennett said.

"Israel won't renew cooperation with UNESCO as long as it continues to serve as a tool for political attacks instead of being a professional organization," he added.

Danny Danon, Israel's ambassador to the U.N., described the decision as an "ugly and aggressive step against the Jewish people," adding that the organization has lost any last remnant of reliability.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Reyad Al-Maliki, on the other hand, hailed the vote, saying it was proof of the "successful diplomatic battle Palestine has launched on all fronts in the face of Israeli and American pressure on (UNESCO) member countries."

Hebron, the largest Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank with a population of about 200,000, including 1,000 Israeli settlers, has long been a place of religious friction between Muslims and Jews. The settlers, who are being protected by about 800 Israeli troops, have been determined to expand the Jewish presence in the city because of its religious significance.

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