East Jerusalem
The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan Photo by Emil Salman
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Israel razed on Tuesday an inhabited Palestinian home in East Jerusalem for the first time in eight months, effectively ending an unofficial freeze of such internationally condemned demolitions.

A Reuters photographer witnessed a Palestinian family removing its belongings from the house in East Jerusalem's Beit Hanina neighborhood before an Israeli excavator tore into the dwelling.

"They can build hundreds of settlements but I'm not entitled to live in a shack?" asked Linda al-Rajabi outside the demolished dwelling she shared with her husband and their five children.

Israel's Jerusalem municipality said the home was built without a city permit.

The demolition seemed certain to draw a new wave of international criticism of Israeli policy toward Palestinians in East Jerusalem, an area captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed by Israel in a move that has not won international recognition.

The dwelling was razed a week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held White House talks with U.S. President Barack Obama to patch up relations strained by Israeli settlement policy in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Netanyahu promised Obama "concrete steps" - confidence-building measures - within weeks to try to coax the Palestinians back into direct peace negotiations.

Washington has publicly urged Israel not to demolish Palestinian homes built without permits. Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, say it is impossible to obtain construction approval from Israeli authorities.


"The United States has made clear that it disagrees with some Government of Israel actions in Jerusalem that affect Palestinians in areas such as housing, including home demolitions, and has urged all parties to avoid actions that could undermine trust," a U.S. official said in response to the demolition.

"This underscores the need for a permanent status agreement that resolves all outstanding issues between the parties, including Jerusalem, and which results in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the official said.

 

Israel had refrained from implementing demolition orders since November in the politically sensitive Jerusalem area, after U.S. pressure not to take steps that could jeopardize peace talks with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu intervened several months ago to postpone city plans to demolish about 20 homes in another part of East Jerusalem, where the Israeli municipality is planning a new housing project.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israel razed two unfinished Palestinian homes and part of a factory in East Jerusalem.

Dozens of armed border police guarded an excavator as it tore apart the foundations of the cement structures in the Issawiya section of East Jerusalem. There was no violence, a police spokesman said.

Palestinian resident Basem Isawi, 48, an unemployed contractor, said one of the structures was his own unfinished home. He built it illegally, he said, spending about $25,000, because he knew the municipality would not give him a permit.

He had been notified of the impending demolition but did not know when it was slated to happen, he said.