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Jerusalem hotel razed for Israeli homes

Associated Press / January 10, 2011

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JERUSALEM — Israeli bulldozers demolished a vacant hotel in an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem yesterday, clearing the way for a new Jewish housing development that has drawn heavy Palestinian and American condemnations.

The planned construction, combined with a flare-up in Israeli-Palestinian violence, appeared to bode poorly for a new US attempt to restart peace talks this week. The Palestinians accused Israel of undermining peace efforts.

Yesterday, crews knocked down the historic Shepherd Hotel, built in the 1930s as the residence of the mufti of Jerusalem at the time, Haj Amin Husseini.

The property fell under the control of Israel in 1967. Nearly two decades later, the Israeli government sold the building to businessman Irving Moskowitz.

In 2009, after years of bureaucratic stalling, Jerusalem’s hard-line mayor issued permits to turn the site into 20 apartments for Israelis. The decision came over the objections of Washington.

Descendants of Husseini still claim to own the site, and a family lawyer said he had a restraining order to stop construction until a hearing this morning.

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