(Jericho) The prehistoric site of Tell es-Sultan, near the city of Jericho in the occupied West Bank, was included on the UNESCO world heritage list on Sunday, the UN organization announced.

The inscription was validated in Riyadh during the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee.

“The nominated property is the prehistoric archaeological site of Tell es-Sultan, located outside the ancient site of Jericho,” said Ernesto Ottone, Assistant Director-General for Culture at UNESCO, during a session.

“The historical events that followed […] constitute a rich cultural context, of historical and heritage interest, including in particular the Jewish and Christian heritage,” he added.

“There are no Jewish or Christian remains on the site. It’s a place of prehistoric remains,” a diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The site was inscribed following a three-year nomination “during which no State Party raised any objections,” he added.

Israel, which has occupied the West Bank since 1967, left UNESCO in 2019, accusing it of bias, but sent a delegation to Riyadh.

It is “a matter of great importance and a proof of the authenticity and history of the Palestinian people,” rejoiced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a statement, promising that the Palestinian authorities “would continue to preserve this site unique for all humanity.”

The inscription shows that this site “is an integral part of the Palestinian heritage, diverse and of exceptional human value”, welcomed in a press release the Palestinian Minister of Tourism, Rula Maaya, present in Riyadh.

The site “deserves” its inscription given its “importance as the oldest fortified city in the world”, she added.

Tell es-Sultan, predating the Egyptian pyramids, is an oval-shaped mound in the Jordan Valley, containing prehistoric deposits testifying to human activity.

“A permanent settlement was established here between the 9th and 8th millennium BC. due to the oasis’ fertile soil and easy access to water,” according to UNESCO.

According to the organization, skulls and statues discovered at the site demonstrate the cultural practices of the Neolithic population who lived there, while archaeological material from the early Bronze Age reveals signs of urban planning.

The site has been under excavation for more than a century and claims the title of the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the world, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa.

It is the fourth Palestinian site to join the world heritage list, after the Church of the Nativity, the Old City of Hebron and the Land of Olives and Vines south of Jerusalem.