11/06/2013, 00.00
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Israel demolishes Church-owned house to expel a Palestinian family

For Mgr William Shomali, auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem, Monday's demolition stems from an error made by the authorities. The real goal was not the Latin Patriarchate, but the Muslim family living in East Jerusalem house. The Catholic Church plans to go to court against the the State of Israel to demand compensation.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - "The demolition of the house owned by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the result of a transgression by the Israeli authorities. The target was not the Catholic Church, but the Muslim family living in the house," said Mgr William Shomali

Speaking to AsiaNews about Monday's destruction of a house owned by the Patriarchate near Bethlehem (West Bank), the auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem noted, "The building was built before 1967 and had all necessary permits. The Catholic Church will demand the payment of damages to the Israeli government."

For Bishop Shomali, this is unprecedented act that illustrates the seriousness of the problem posed by Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

"The authorities do not follow an urban plan to select houses [for demolition], but target Palestinian families that live in them." In his view, had the house not belonged to the Church, the illegal act would have largely gone unnoticed.

On Monday, Israeli security forces came to the house with bulldozers to demolish it, arguing that it had been built without a permit.

The residents, a Muslim family of 14, said that the authorities broke into their house at five in the morning, forcing everyone out. To prevent them from calling relatives and friends, police seized all their mobile phones.

The family, which watched helplessly as the house was torn down, now lives in a tent set up by the Red Cross near the rubbles of the building.

The demolition took place 48 hours before a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who will meet today with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, in Bethlehem, to discuss the peace process with Israel.

Yesterday, the Latin Patriarchate organised a rally at the demolished house attended by Christians, Muslims and diplomats, including the consuls of Italy and Belgium.

To protest against the act, which the local Catholic Church describes as "illegal" and "unprecedented," Archbishop Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem wrote a letter of protest to Israeli Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar.

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