Israel Monday announced it has fired the American academic who led an effort to translate the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest known copies of the Old Testment. The decision came after the professor made anti-Jewish remarks.

The announcement cited "health reasons" for removal of Harvard University professor John Strugnell from the project, but the 60-year-old scholar has been sharply criticized for an interview containing anti-Jewish remarks published in November in the Hebrew daily Haaretz.The project also had come under increasing fire for the slowness with which the scholars' work is being published.

Strugnell has worked on the scrolls for more than three decades and has been editor of the scrolls project since 1987. Earlier in December, other scholars working on the project voted to have him replaced.

The scrolls, some of which date to 100 B.C., were found starting in 1947 in caves near the Dead Sea. They contain the oldest known copies of the Old Testament, other biblical writings, ancient literature and poetry.

Drori said the remaining manuscripts would be edited by Emanuel Tov, an Israeli named to work with Strugnell in October.

Magen Broshi, who is one of the members of the advisory committee, estimated that about 80 percent of the scrolls have been published.