* Court says Palestinian ownership petition came too late
* Twenty homes for Jews to be built at site
By Jihan Abdalla
JERUSALEM, April 2 Israel's Supreme Court ruled
on Monday that a prominent Palestinian family could not claim
ownership of a landmark and now derelict building in East
Jerusalem - paving the way for a Jewish settlement project.
The Husseini family said the Shepherd Hotel, now partially
demolished, is a symbol of the Palestinian rights to their land
and to East Jerusalem, and criticised the court ruling.
The Shepherd Hotel was built in the 1930s and served as the
home of Jerusalem grand mufti Haj Amin Husseini, who fought the
British and Zionists.
It was declared "absentee property" by Israel after it was
captured and annexed to East Jerusalem in 1967. The title was
transferred to an Israeli firm, which sold it in 1985 to Irving
Moskowitz, a Florida businessman and patron of Jewish settlers.
In 2009, Israel's Jerusalem city hall approved a project to
replace the building with a block of 20 apartments. Israeli
officials said Washington had voiced its opposition to the plan
to Israel's ambassador in the United States.
"This property, which is legitimately ours, represents the
Palestinians' rights to their land and to Jerusalem," Mona
Husseini, heir to the property and Husseini's granddaughter,
said on Monday.
In dismissing the family's case, the court said too much
time had passed since Israeli authorities had transferred the
property to private developers for a legal challenge to be
brought, a lawyer for the petitioners said.
The family said it had been unaware at the time that the
site had been sold off.
"The court clearly sided with the other party, and this
proves that the Israeli courts have never been fair to
Palestinians," said Adnan Husseini, the Palestinian
Authority-appointed mayor of Jerusalem and a member of the
The family said, however, they would continue to seek legal
action "against the odds".
The future of Jerusalem is at the heart of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Citing historical and Biblical
links, Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its indivisible
capital, a claim that has not won international recognition.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of the
state they aim to create in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza
Strip, and say Jewish settlement could deny them a viable
Some 250,000 settlers live in East Jerusalem and adjacent
areas of the West Bank that Israel annexed to its Jerusalem
municipality after the 1967 conflict. East Jerusalem has 300,000
(Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)