Jerusalem mayor warns against settlement demolition

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Jerusalem's Israeli mayor Nir Barkat has warned that Palestinian homes built without an Israeli permit in the city's annexed east could be demolished if authorities dismantle a wildcat Jewish settlement.

Barkat was reacting to a ruling by Israel's Supreme Court ordering the evacuation and demolition by December 25 of the Amona outpost, where around 40 families are living on private Palestinian-owned land near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

His comments came in a letter addressed to the government's legal council -- seen Monday by AFP -- in which he says the demolition of Amona "could have implications for similar cases in Jerusalem, where Arabs have illegally built on private or municipal land".

"There should not be one law for Jews and another for Arabs," wrote Barkat, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling right-wing Likud party.

Ir Amim, an Israeli NGO opposed to Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem, where more than 200,000 Israelis now live, denounced the mayor's comments.

"These are outrageous remarks by someone trying to promote his political career on the backs of the people of Jerusalem," Ir Amim head Yehudit Oppenheimer told AFP.

She said Barkat was hoping to become a national leader of Likud, and "therefore he thinks everything is permitted." 1

The international community considers all Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank illegal whether they are authorised by the Israeli government or not (photo by: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/File)

"Since the start of the year, 166 illegally-built Palestinian structures in east Jerusalem have been demolished by the authorities, t wice the figure in the same period last year," she added.

NGOs say many Palestinians are forced to build illegally because Israeli authorities refuse to give them building permits.

The international community considers all Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank illegal whether they are authorised by the Israeli government or not.

They are viewed as illegal under international law and major stumbling blocks to peace efforts as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

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