Harriet Sherwood in Sheikh Jarrah
Work began without warning in the early morning, and by 10am a wing of the hotel in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah was reduced to rubble. The building, once the headquarters of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the former grand mufti of Jerusalem, has been the subject of controversial redevelopment plans since it was bought in 1985 by the US millionaire Irving Moskowitz, who is strongly pro-settlement. His ownership is contested by the Husseini family.
Both the US and UK governments have raised objections to the hotel's replacement by a Jewish settlement. East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel in 1967, and settlements there are illegal under international law. The hotel was declared "absentee property" after 1967. Approval was given last year by the Jerusalem district planning and building council to demolish part of the building to make way for 20 housing units.
Sheikh Jarrah has been targeted by hardline settlers over the past few years, and a number of Palestinian families have been evicted from their homes. Israel says Jews have the right to build and live anywhere in the city. The area has become a focal point for weekly protests by locals and leftwing Israelis.
"[Israel] is not looking for peace but to take more land," said Adnan Husseini, the Palestinian-appointed governor of Jerusalem, outside the gates of the hotel that were guarded by armed security personnel. "It's clear they are doing everything to violate the situation. They are disfiguring this area by building a settlement here."
Israeli actions, said resident Nasser Jawi, were "torpedoing the peace process".
Nasser Isa Hidmi, of the Jerusalem Committee Against Demolition and Deportation, said the international community should act to prevent Jewish settlers moving into Palestinian neighbourhoods: "We don't want sympathy – we want them to stop Israel from doing what it's doing."....READ MORE