Israel destroys East Jerusalem hotel for settlements

Palestinians watch as the Hotel Shepherd is torn down, East Jerusalem (9 Jan 2011) Palestinians accused Israel of trying to "erase" them from the city

Israeli bulldozers have demolished part of a hotel in East Jerusalem to make way for 20 homes for Jewish settlers.

The destruction of the Shepherd Hotel has angered Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The Palestinian leadership said Israel was destroying any chance of returning to peace. The US called the demolition a "disturbing development".

Israel says it has a right to build homes in any part of the city.

The Shepherd Hotel was built in the 1930s and was once home to Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who became an ally of Adolf Hitler in World War II.

Its current ownership is disputed - Israel says it belongs to a Jewish-American property developer but Palestinians say it was seized illegally after Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967.

'Contradicts logic'

"By doing this, Israel has destroyed all the US efforts and ended any possibility of a return to negotiations," said Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"Israel has no right to build in any part of East Jerusalem, or any part of the Palestinian land occupied in 1967."

Attempts by the US to revive peace negotiations stalled last year, after Israel refused to end settlement building on occupied Palestinian land.

View of East Jerusalem (photo: Martin Asser)

In a statement, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the demolition "undermines peace efforts to achieve the two state-solution".

"In particular, this move contradicts the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties on the status of Jerusalem," she said.

Adnan al-Husseini, Palestinian governor of Jerusalem, said it was the latest in a line of demolitions of historic buildings and accused Israel of "trying to erase any Palestinian identity" from the city.

Israeli officials said the demolition had been carried out legally and defended its decision.

"This is something that every country does in its own domain without the necessity to give any report to any other government," said the minister for national infrastructure, Uzi Landau.

Nearly 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

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