Israeli bulldozers yesterday demolished a large part of an historic Palestinian hotel in Arab East Jerusalem as part of an internationally condemned plan to establish 20 new homes for Jewish settlers.
Three bulldozers moved into the compound of the empty Shepherd Hotel shortly after 6.30am and began destroying a main wing of the building, which is close to the British consulate-general in the Sheikh Jarrah district of the city.
The high-profile demolition |was carried out on behalf of the American millionaire Irving Moskowitz, a leading patron of Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, who bought the property in 1985 and finally obtained planning permission from the city municipality to build the new homes last year. The Obama |administration expressed its disapproval at the time.
The move is the latest to expand Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, unilaterally annexed by Israel after its victory in the 1967 Six Day War and wanted by the Palestinians as the capital of a future state.
Settlement growth in East Jerusalem has been one of the issues halting direct negotiations between Israel and the moderate Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership.
There have been a series of demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah by mainly Israeli left-wing protesters angered by the eviction |of local Palestinian families |to make way for settlement growth, which is regarded, like the annexation itself, as illegal |by most of the international community.
The British Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt yesterday condemned the demolition as a “provocative unilateral action” which hindered efforts to resume peace talks.
The Palestinian Authority's Jerusalem governor, Adnan Husseini, said at the scene that the move was “very dangerous” and added: “They are destroying the history, memory, feelings of the Palestinian people.”