The head of the Roman Catholic church in the Holy Land protested Tuesday against Israel's demolition of a church-owned property in annexed east Jerusalem, saying it eroded chances for peace.
"This act is against the law, against justice and against humanity, against any ideology upon which peace can be built and increases segregation and hate," Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Tawwal told journalists at the site of the demolition.
Israeli security forces and bulldozers arrived at the house at 5:00 am (0300 GMT) on Monday with a previously unseen demolition order, claiming it had been built without a permit, according to its residents -- a family of 14.
But Tawwal said the property, on Jerusalem's southeastern edge close to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, had been standing since before 1967, when Israel seized Arab east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War.
"We didn't receive any orders for the demolition" beforehand, Tawwal added.
Signup to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
"This is holy land and always will be, and the interior ministry, the (Jerusalem) municipality and Israeli organisations knew it belonged to the patriarchate."
Tawwal said the church would appeal to Israeli and international courts over the demolition and had already complained to the interior ministry and the municipality.
He said it was the first time the Jewish state had demolished property belonging to the church.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said on Tuesday that the city was starting proceedings for the mass demolition of Palestinian homes in other parts of east Jerusalem.
"Over the past few days, hundreds of families in the Ras Hamis and Ras Shahada neighbourhoods received notices that the Jerusalem municipality has requested the issuance of demolition orders on their homes because they were built without legal permits," it said in a statement.
Jerusalem municipality's spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.