A Jerusalem planning body's approval of a plan to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem to make room for an Israeli tourist center would be illegal, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday.

Ban's office issued a statement saying the planned demolitions in the area of Silwan were "contrary to international law, and to the wishes of Palestinian residents."

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Ban's statement said "the current moves are unhelpful" because they do not help build trust to support political negotiations.

It said Israel's government has a "responsibility to ensure provocative steps are not taken" that would heighten tensions in the city.


The plan, which passed an initial hearing in the municipality’s Local Planning and Construction Committee on Monday, focuses on the El- Bustan, or Gan Hamelech (King’s Garden), section of the neighborhood, where 88 homes that were built without proper permits and are considered illegal by the city will be divided into two groups and either retroactively legalized, or demolished to make way for the restoration of parkland – for which the entire area was originally zoned.

While officials at City Hall have maintained that the plan is aimed at improving the residents’ quality of life, and that a number of individual agreements have already been hammered out with Palestinian families living in El-Bustan, the announcement of demolitions has apparently ratcheted up already simmering tensions in the area. It has also outraged Palestinian Authority officials, who have denounced the plan and said it “threatens to harm US efforts to promote proximity talks.”

Abe Selig contributed to this report

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