Israeli forces demolished a home for special needs children in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Wadi Joz on Wednesday. Yesterday, the Jerusalem Construction and Planning Committee endorsed plans to establish three new ultra-orthodox settlements on the outskirts of occupied East Jerusalem. Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat called the demolition: "shockingly callous" and the Committee's decision a "clear [Israeli] rejection of the Arab Peace Initiative." According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), Israeli Border Police arrived at the children's centre at 5.30am and awoke two carers and seven children. After the police forcibly removed two children, carers evacuated the remaining children and held a prayer vigil before the centre was demolished. The home also served East Jerusalem's special needs schools, providing a meeting place and activities for Palestinian students with special needs. Israel claims that the centre lacked a proper permit and therefore it was subject to demolition. But as a report issued yesterday by the World Bank confirms, Palestinians in East Jerusalem have difficulty obtaining building permits from Israel. Still, the report found that "80 percent of building violations [registered in Jerusalem] were recorded in West Jerusalem [while] 80 percent of actual demolition orders issued were for buildings in Palestinian East Jerusalem." Mr Erekat said: "Today, the occupier has no clothes. Today it is obvious that Israel wants Jerusalem for only some of Jerusalem's people." He noted that Israel prevents the vast majority of Christian and Muslim Palestinians from accessing Palestinian East Jerusalem, through an elaborate system of checkpoints and permits, even though East Jerusalem is occupied territory and Israel has no right to apply its sovereignty there. Mr Erekat continued: "One day Israel demolishes a home and centre for disabled children; the next day it approves plans for three illegal ultra-Orthodox settlements in East Jerusalem, calling into question the very viability of Jerusalem's ancient communities of Christian and Muslim Palestinian Virtually the entire international community deems all of Israel's settlements illegal, including those in East Jerusalem. In July 2004, the International Court of Justice reaffirmed that all of Israel's settlements are grave violations of international law. Mr Erekat noted that construction was ongoing today in the controversial E-1 area to Jerusalem's East, despite repeated assurances from the Israeli government to the United States that it would not construct there. He said that these new settlements, along with E-1 and other Jerusalem area settlements, mean "that time for the so-called 'two-state solution' may soon be over." He stressed that the area known as Metropolitan East Jerusalem, which extends from Ramallah in the north to Bethlehem in the south, historically accounted for 30 to 40% of the Palestinian economy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip combined. By fragmenting that metropolitan unit and severing East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, he explained, "the Jerusalem-area Wall and settlements mean no viable Palestinian state, no Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, and thus no viable two-state solution." Mr Erekat concluded his remarks by saying: "I wish Israel would do what majorities of both Palestinians and Israelis want: Accept the two-state solution and accept peace. Weeks before the 40th Anniversary of Israeli occupation, Arabs are united in offering Israel full peace for full withdrawal and a just and agreed solution to the plight of Palestinian refugees. [Recent actions], however, demonstrate a clear [Israeli] rejection of the Arab Peace Initiative." Mr Erekat concluded by calling on the international community to "help Palestinians rebuild the children's home immediately, ensure a complete and full freeze on Israeli settlement activity, and encourage Israel to accept the Arab Peace Initiative now." For a new map of the proposed new settlements, please visit www.nad-plo.org/news-updates/jercd0507.pdf For additional information and maps on Israel's wall and settlements in and around East Jerusalem, please visit the "News and Updates" section on the homepage of www.nad-plo.org.
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