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History in Ruins: Hamam Al Samra 700-Year-Old Heritage Targeted in Gaza

The intentional destruction of cultural heritage is a matter of great concern and distress. The destruction of valuable artefacts and sites not only leads to their permanent loss but also severs tangible connections to our collective human history. The intentional destruction of cultural heritage is often used to assert dominance, eliminate opposing ideologies, or promote a particular narrative.

Notorious Actions by the Taliban and ISIS

The Taliban and ISIS have become notorious for intentionally destroying antiquities and cultural heritage sites. These people frequently have ideological and religious motivations, as well as a desire to eradicate cultural diversity that goes against their beliefs.

Targeting of Historic Hammam Al Samra

On December 26, 2023, Israel attacked Hamam Al Samra, a historic Hammam that has been standing for 700 years in Gaza. This historical site is of great cultural and heritage significance to the city. What could be the possible reasons for targeting a 700-year-old building that has recently undergone maintenance and renovation by international experts from France?  According to Abdalhadi Alijla, a social activist, "it's challenging to understand the logic behind such actions, which seem barbaric. Who are the sons of darkness, and who are the sons of civilization?". The term "sons of darkness" generally refers to individuals or groups who are connected to negative or harmful actions, beliefs, or behaviours. On the other hand, the term "sons of civilization" typically refers to individuals or groups who are connected to positive or constructive actions, beliefs, or behaviours. It has been observed on multiple occasions since 1967 that the late Israeli Defence Minister, Moshe Dayan, was involved in the acquisition of antiquities in Gaza. The person amassed a significant collection, which they later gave as gifts to their friends who live in the United States. Some of  these items were purchased in Beirut by Lebanese businessmen and NGOs. Israel began demolishing specific areas within the old city of Gaza in 1967. The authorities have implemented restrictions on building homes outside the old city. However, they have allowed construction within the old city itself, under the condition that the Israeli army can salvage the stones from any demolished houses. 

Cultural Cleansing and its Impact
The recent Israeli attack on the 700-year-old Hammam Al Samra in Gaza brings attention to the complex nature of such actions. The intentional targeting of a historically significant building raises concerns about the motives behind these seemingly barbaric acts. This building is even more perplexing because international experts have meticulously preserved and restored it. The intentional destruction of cultural artefacts and heritage sites, often known as "cultural cleansing," accurately depicts the act of eliminating traces of diverse cultures and histories. The impact of this extends beyond the physical aspects of cultural heritage. It also aims to eradicate the intangible values and knowledge associated with these artefacts.

Urging UNESCO and The Antiquities Coalition to Preserve Gaza's Cultural Heritage
The Antiquities Coalition and UNESCO are important advocates for the protection of cultural heritage. They play crucial roles in raising public awareness, documenting damages, and advocating for the preservation of heritage sites. considering the recent events, it is crucial for UNESCO and The Antiquities Coalition to take immediate action and actively participate in the preservation of cultural heritage in Gaza, considering the ongoing destruction. Their expertise and international influence can play a crucial role in protecting the rich history and heritage of the region.

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