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Earthquake shakes Israel, Palestinian territories

world Updated: Dec 03, 2007 21:55 IST

The fourth earthquake in two weeks shook parts of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories on Sunday, causing no casualties or damage.

The tremor had a magnitude of 4.0, according to a statement from Israel's Geophysical Institute. Its epicenter was north of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, according to the Israeli institute and Jordan's Natural Resources Authority.

The Dead Sea lies on the Syrian-African rift fault line, where earthquakes are common. The border between Israel and Jordan runs along the rift.

On average, major earthquakes hit the area once a century. But the recent tremors do not indicate that a large-scale quake is on the way, said Dr. Uri Frieslander, director of the Geophysical Institute.

"What we're seeing are typical movements along the Dead Sea valley," Frieslander told Israel Radio. "These quakes...don't foreshadow anything or indicate that something is about to happen," he said.

None of the recent quakes have caused injuries or damage. But in the past, earthquakes have caused serious damage to Safed, Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Nablus, and have damaged holy sites, including the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third-holiest site, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, sacred to many Christians as the site of Jesus' crucifixion and burial.

The last major earthquake to strike the area was in 1927. It had a magnitude of more than 6 and killed 500 people. Israeli experts say that because of population growth and poor construction standards in older buildings, an earthquake of the same magnitude today would kill more than 18,000 people.