In this Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017 photo, Junaid Sorosh-Wali, right, a UNESCO official, inspects the remains of a mosaic at St. Hilarion monastery, a site of early Christianity, in Nusseirat, central Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
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Archaeologists began excavating Gaza's earliest archaeological site nearly 20 years ago, unearthing what they believe is a rare 4,500-year-old Bronze Age settlement. But over protests, which grew recently, Gaza's Hamas rulers have systematically destroyed the work since seizing power a decade ago, allowing the flattening of this hill on the southern tip of Gaza City to make way for construction projects, and later military bases. In its newest project, Hamas-supported bulldozers are flattening the last remnants of the excavation.When calls on Hamas to stop the recent flattening intensified last month, the nearest available expert to gain access to Gaza was Jean-Baptiste Humbert, a Jerusalem-based archaeologist at the Ecole Biblique and who had excavated other sites in Gaza.Gaza is home to numerous ancient treasures, but politics have long complicated archaeological work.Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 .Humbert rushed to Gaza, and with the help of colleagues from Gaza's Islamic University, he succeeded in stopping the work for two weeks while the ministry and Hamas' Land Authority worked to settle the dispute.Sorosh-Wali, the UNESCO official, said the site is among around a dozen locations in the West Bank and Gaza that the Palestinian Authority wants listed as UNESCO "world heritage" sites.
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