Israel destroys protest tent in East Jerusalem

By AFP – 28 Oct 2009

JERUSALEM — Israeli police on Wednesday destroyed a protest tent set up last summer outside two homes where Palestinian families were evicted to make way for Jewish settlers, witnesses said.

Police arrived at the site mid-morning and destroyed the tent, which in recent weeks has served as a focal point for demonstrations against Israel’s policy in mostly Arab East Jerusalem, they said.

Palestinian and foreign activists rebuilt the structure but police returned and destroyed it again.

The Jerusalem municipality said it was alerted to the structure by an “anonymous tip” and that it had given the owner a three-day warning that it would be destroyed if he did not produce a permit.

In August, police evacuated two extended families — 53 people, including 19 minors — from their homes after the Israeli supreme court upheld a settler organisation’s claim to the properties.

The evictions sparked a storm of international criticism, including from Israel’s closest ally the United States, which said such actions harmed efforts to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

Israel has also defied international calls to stop demolishing Palestinian homes built in East Jerusalem without official permits, and on Tuesday razed five houses in the disputed city.

The European Union’s top diplomat Javier Solana expressed concern over the demolitions and called on Israel to “end these discriminatory measures.”

Arab residents have long said it is virtually impossible to get permits from the Israeli-run municipality for new homes and home extensions in east Jerusalem, and as a result have built thousands of illegal structures there.

Israel seized mostly Arab East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and considers all of Jerusalem its “unified and eternal” capital.

The international community has never recognised Israel’s claim to the entire city. Palestinians want to make east Jerusalem — home to some 200,000 Jewish Israelis and 268,000 Palestinians — the capital of their future state.

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