The wounds from the battle for ownership over Hebron Old City were reopened recently when the World Heritage Committee under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated it and the Tomb of the Patriarchs endangered when putting the sites on the World Heritage Site list last week on July 7.

Palestinian territory designation

It was reported that the decision caused such outrage from the Israeli Government that many of its leaders -- even those from the left -- reacted aggressively to the decision, even calling the committee anti-Semitic.

Their outrage primarily focused on the fact that the committee designated the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs endangered Palestinian sites rather than an endangered Jewish sites. UNESCO, however, does not make its designations based on religious grounds but more on territorial grounds.

According to the 2016 population estimates by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the Old City of Hebron is said to be home to 215,452 Palestinians and up to 850 Jewish settlers. Twenty percent of the Old City is under Israeli control leaving the rest under the Palestinian Authority (PA) which originally submitted the request to UNESCO under the condition that the city be designated as Muslim.

Israel enraged by reports of occupation, settlement expansion

The Israeli government had made the same effort to designate the city as Jewish before but the effort rejected, just as the PA's request to designate the Old City of Hebron as a Muslim city. Instead, according to UNESCO, the Old City is on the endangered list because many of the buildings are made of the local limestone.

But what has also angered Israelis leaders is that in the committee's report on the decision, they included that the sites were endangered due to damage caused by Israel's military occupation, settlement expansion and archaeological activity.

It's been reported that for a number of years Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have had a hand in reducing the presence of Palestinians that reside in the Israeli controlled part of the city.

In the submission by the PA, they said that the site was under threat from constant vandalism by Israeli settlers. For this reason, the committee reportedly fast-tracked the vote.

Unrealistic demands for comparisons

Some Israeli leaders have even attacked the decision asking why the committee didn't designate other sites around the world that were really in danger as "endangered." They used such examples as those sites in war-torn Syria that were destroyed by the Islamic State. In the recent battle over Mosul in Iraq, the Grand al-Nouri Mosque which was located in the Old City of Mosul was destroyed by ISIS extremists using detonators.

Currently, there is no information that says the Iraqi or Syrian government had submitted requests to UNESCO even though the organization has condemned the destruction of those sites. Under the dire circumstances of war both regions face, it's unlikely that UNESCO would be able to provide security to protect those sites under requirements of their designation.