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Israel to fund settlers' archeological project in disputed West Bank city

JERUSALEM, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- A group of Jewish settlers in the West Bank managed to get Israeli state funding for an archeological dig in their city of Hebron cohabited by Jews and Palestinians, the Ha'aretz daily reported on Thursday.

According to the daily, the settlers approached different Israeli archaeologists in the past several months in order to get the project underway.

Under the 3-million-U.S.-dollar funding, the excavations will be conducted by archeologists from the University of Ariel, a West Bank settlement, and will be supported by the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

Also, the excavations site is set to transition into an archeological park and tourist attraction at the heart of the Jewish settlement.

The city of Hebron, one of the biggest Palestinian municipalities, is populated by 250,000 Palestinians and up to 850 Jewish settlers. The city is divided into two sectors and is a center of disputes and controversy.

Hebron is holy to both Jews and Muslims, as it is the burial site of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in the Jewish bible and is one of the four holy cities of Islam.

There have been frequent clashes between Jews and Palestinians and high-profile land disputes, some of which are still deliberated in the Israeli Supreme Court.

Tal Rumedia is currently under the control of the Jewish settlers, but it had once housed a Palestinian family who lived there until the second intifada (Palestinians' armed uprising against Jews) broke out in the early 2000s.

"This is a settlement expansion under the guise of archaeology, " Peace Now Director-General Yariv Oppenheimer told the daily in regards to Israel's decision to fund the project.

"Under the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's nose, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon is enabling the settlers to expand and change the status quo in the most sensitive part of the West Bank, " Oppenheimer added.

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