Tomb of Patriarchs
Israeli soldiers are posted on a hillside position overlooking the site known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque, in the West Bank city of HebronHazem Bader/Getty

Israel has hit out at a decision by the UN World Heritage body (UNESCO) to declare the city ofHebron’s Old City a Palestinian world heritage site.

Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is home to at least 200,000 Palestinians and hundreds Israeli settlers.

It includes a holy site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque and to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs. UNESCO said the religious building was a Palestinian World Heritage site in danger.

In a secret ballot conducted on Friday, 7 July, at the UNESCO annual summit in Krakow, Poland, 12 country members of the organisation voted in favour of the resolution – which had been brought by the Palestinians – while three opposed and six abstained, AFP reported.

Israel’s UNESCO ambassador, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, reportedly accused the committee of not conducting a true secret ballot.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon slammed the decision.

“This attempt to sever the ties between Israel and Hebron is shameful and offensive, and eliminates UNESCO’s last remaining shred of credibility,” he said, according to the Times of Israel.

“To disassociate Israel from the burial grounds of the patriarchs and matriarchs of our nation is an ugly display of discrimination, and an act of aggression against the Jewish people.”

Jews regard the Tomb of the Patriarch as the burial place of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs.

Naftali Bennet, Israel’s education minister and the chairman of the country’s committee to Unesco, said the country will not renew cooperation with the UN organisation following the decision.

“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,” he said, according to local news site Haaretz.

“Israel won’t renew cooperation with UNESCO as long as it continues to serve as a tool for political attacks instead of a being a professional organization.”

In a series of Twitter posts, Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, accused Unesco of spreading fake history and claimed Jewish people’s history started in Hebron.

Meanwhile, Palestinians welcomed the decision.

Rula Maayah, the Palestinian Minister of Tourism, said in a statement it was a “historical development because it stressed that Hebron” and its mosque “historically belong to the Palestinian people,” AP reported.

The Unesco’s decision makes Hebron’s old city the third Palestinian world heritage site. The other two are the birthplace of Jesus, Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Land of Olives and Vines.