Israeli bulldozers have started to demolish the historic Shepherd Hotel in occupied East Jerusalem. The hotel, originally owned by the then Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin Husseini, is in the Sheikh Jarrah district; the Israeli occupation authorities are pulling the building down to make way for illegal Jewish settlers.
According to Israeli sources, the demolition started in the early hours of Sunday 9 January following approval from the Construction and Planning Committee of the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Municipality. The Israeli organisation Peace Now revealed the authority's plans to build 20 homes for settlers last June. In its statement at the time, Peace Now also revealed that the intention of the occupation authority is to build settlements on the ruins of Palestinian-owned buildings in a way that will isolate Sheikh Jarrah from the Old City of Jerusalem.
Following its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel took control of the Shepherd Hotel under its so-called "absentee landlord" legislation. It was sold to American millionaire Irving Moskowitz who transferred the deeds to the right-wing settlers' group Ateret Cohanim. Commentators have questioned how long the US administration will allow American individuals and organisations to support illegal activity such as this in the occupied territories.