We recently reported that a group of Orthodox Jews want to lay cornerstones for a new temple at or near one of the major centers of Islam, Jerusalem?s Dome of the Rock, or Al Aqsa Mosque, which was built on top of the ruins of the 2nd Jewish temple that was destroyed by the Romans 2,000 years ago. In order to discredit this attempt, a group of Palestinians has been secretly excavating and removing all remains of the temple in an effort to deny that it was ever there, despite clear historical evidence to the contrary.

Now it seems that the Palestinians may have gone too far, because, according to the DEBKA-Net-Weekly website in Israel, a small protrusion has formed in the 2000-year-old Southern Wall of the Temple Mount and cracks are spreading in the fabric of the Al Aqsa Mosque.

The damage to the ancient sites has been caused by five years of unsupervised construction work aimed at expanding the space underneath the mosque into the biggest mosque in the Middle East. The work has been carried out by the Islamic religious authority, called the Waqf under its leader, Sheik Raed Salah, and no engineers, archeologists or scholars have been allowed to inspect the work, as required by Israeli regulations governing historical and religious monuments. The past few Israeli governments, fearing an international Islamic backlash, allowed the underground excavations and construction to go on, unchecked and unsupervised.

Two weeks ago, Sheikh Salah told his congregation about the cracks and crumbling patches in the Al Aqsa Mosque wall. Palestinian Authority spokesman Ahmed Abdul Rahman announced over Radio Palestine that Israel plans to take control of the entire Muslim site. He also mentioned the cracks, but declared that they were part of an Israeli plot.

Al Aqsa, like the rest of Jerusalem, is located in an earthquake-prone area and has been destroyed by earthquakes seven times since it was built by the city?s first Muslim conquerors in the seventh century. The excavation has weakened the structure to the extent that a tremor could damage it extensively. Israelis fear that if this happens, they will be blamed and the current conflict in Israel will escalate.

Meanwhile, Muslim builders are still using forbidden heavy earth-moving equipment to dig a channel in the Temple Plaza heading in the direction of the Dome of the Rock. Archeologists warn that breaking into the bedrock in this area could harm the gold-topped Dome of the Rock as well as the Temple Wall, a major Jewish religious site which is all that remains of the second Jewish temple.

If both the Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount are destroyed as part of the war in the Mideast, it will be a terrible irony and a symbol of that long conflict.

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