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Palestinians ask Obama to press Israel to halt demolitions
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) — The Palestinian Authority urged the US president on Monday to press Israel to scrap a plan to raze almost 90 homes in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
"We call on President Barack Obama to intervene personally to have this project stopped," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, one of the main aides of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
The Palestinian owners of 88 houses in the Silwan neighbourhood have received eviction notices saying that the structures will be destroyed because they were built or expanded without the necessary permits. The move would affect about 1,500 people.
"It is a massacre that Israel will commit in this Holy City," Abed Rabbo told a news conference, calling for "urgent Arab and international action to halt this dangerous project."
He said some of the houses affected by the orders had been built before Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War.
He called for a day-long strike in east Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank to protest against the plan.
The Gulf Cooperation Council, which groups the six Gulf Arab states, backed the call for US intervention to stop what it called these "racist acts that defy human rights and international law."
"This is a dangerous step taken within the Zionist entity's strategy to change the demographic reality in Jerusalem, signalling the occupier's attempts to turn the city Jewish," the grouping's secretary general Abdulrahman al-Attiya said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
Silwan, which abuts the Old City of Jerusalem, is home to 10,000 Palestinians.
Sixty Jewish families also live in the neighbourhood around the City of David archaeological park which Israeli authorities say was the capital of the ancient Israelite kingdom.
Israel, which considers the whole of Jerusalem its "eternal, undivided" capital rarely grants building permits to Arab residents of east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want to make the capital of their promised state.
According to the Israeli B'Tselem human rights organisation, Israeli authorities have demolished some 350 houses in east Jerusalem since 2004, saying that they were built without permits.