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The Waqf Muslim religious trust is digging a ditch from the northern side of the Temple Mount compound to the Dome of the Rock as a prelude to infrastructure work in the area, generating protests from archaeologists.

The dig has been approved by the police, but the Israel Antiquities Authority declined to respond to the Waqf's excavations and would not comment on whether one of its archaeologists had approved the move.

The Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, an apolitical group comprised of archaeologists and intellectuals from the left and right, criticized the use of a tractor for excavation at the Temple Mount "without real, professional and careful archaeological supervision involving meticulous documentation."

Speaking for the committee Tuesday, archaeologist Eilat Mazar said: "There is disappointment at the turning of a blind eye and the ongoing contempt for the tremendous archaeological importance of the Temple Mount."

At the beginning of the year, Israeli excavations near the Temple Mount, part of a plan to rebuild the Mugrabi bridge walkway, led to violent protests from Arabs in Israel and around the world.