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A floor collapsed at a United Nations-affiliated school in East Jerusalem on Sunday, injuring 17 Palestinian schoolgirls.
Al-Quds Elementary school had previously suffered structural damage due to Israel’s ongoing excavations near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem’s Old City.
Girls fell into a 1.5 to 2-meter deep ditch that opened up when the floor collapsed during the students’ fifth period class, according to a teacher at the school.
Israeli ambulances evacuated the injured girls to hospitals in Jerusalem, where medics said most of them sustained moderate to light injuries.
Neighbors nearby the school said the floor collapsed as a result of excavations that Israeli antiquities authorities have been carrying out under the Old City, particularly near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is located just 100 meters from the damaged school.
Palestinians have repeatedly reported that Israeli officials have been excavating in the area near the Al-Marwani Mosque inside the Al-Aqsa compound. Jerusalem’s Israeli city council appointed an engineer to investigate the collapse at Al-Quds School, officials said.
Meanwhile, eyewitnesses asserted that several neighboring homes in the town of Silwan and in the Old City of Jerusalem sustained cracks as a result of excavations. Israeli police claimed the neighborhood’s houses were already fragile and cracked, but residents of the area said the cracks were new and resulted from Israeli excavations.
The Union of Palestinian Intellectuals insisted that excavations underneath the Al-Aqsa Mosque were putting the entire area at risk, calling them “highly dangerous.” Union members said the UN school’s collapse is just the latest indication of the danger of these excavations.
According to the union, the damage is a direct result of Israeli officials’ continuous digging near a tunnel leading to the Western Wall, which is adjacent to the mosque compound.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army harshly put down a demonstration by Palestinians in East Jerusalem protesting land destruction near the Al=Aqsa Mosque, witnesses told Ma’an.
The Israeli army had bulldozed four dunoms of land belonging to the Al-A’bbasi family in the Al-Bustan neighborhood of Silwan, near Jerusalem’s Old City, sources said, leading to riots.