Το Ισραήλ ξεσήκωσε διεθνή κατακραυγή όταν την Τρίτη επανέλαβε την πάγια πολιτική του να στέλνει μπουλντόζες στην ανατολική Ιερουσαλήμ και να ισοπεδώνει σπίτια Παλαιστινίων.
After nine-months of restraint at the prompting of the United States, Israeli wrecking teams unexpectedly advanced into the city's Arab suburbs and razed six Palestinian-owned buildings.
The return of the bulldozers, seen by Palestinians as one of the most hated symbols of Israeli occupation, threatened to undermine President Barack Obama's finely-balanced efforts to resume full peace talks.The fate of East Jerusalem, which Palestinians regard as their future capital, generates more emotion than perhaps any single issue in the long-running conflict and any attempts to change the delicate demographic balance in the city often provokes uproar.
Jerusalem's Jewish city council, which ordered the demolitions, insisted that none of the buildings it destroyed were actually houses inhabited by Palestinians.
Yet that claim appeared questionable in at least one case. Dalel Rajabi was not at home when the bulldozers arrived -- she had taken her sick 10-month-old daughter to hospital.
The demolition team roused her sister, who lives next door, instead. According to Linda Rajabi, she was given half an hour to remove vital documents and school work from her sister's house.
Shortly after the bulldozers finished their work, Dalel Rajabi came home. As she turned into the lane on which her house had stood earlier in the morning, Mrs Rajabi's knees buckled underneath her and she collapsed in tears.
"We were given no warning," she said, as her nephew salvaged frying pans from the ruins. "Me and my children are now in the street."
With similar scenes unfolding elsewhere in the city, Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate Palestinian leader, is likely to come under domestic pressure to limit his cooperation with Israel.
With the US intensifying its diplomatic efforts, there had been speculation in recent days that Mr Abbas would drop his objections to moving from indirect negotiations to face-to-face talks with Israel.
The demolition could also damage attempts to salve Israel's historic relationship with the US, which had become strained as a result of the Israeli government's policies in East Jerusalem.
Mr Obama is understood to have urged Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to refrain from demolishing Palestinian houses or expanding Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and later annexed.
The two men fell out in March after Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem but patched up their relationship during a notably friendly meeting at the White House last week.
Mr Netanyahu's government insisted that it had nothing to do with the demolitions or a decision on Monday to build 32 more Jewish homes in East Jerusalem, saying such matters were in the hands of the courts.
"Israel acts in these matters with great sensitivity because we do understand the political environment," said Mark Regev, Mr Netanyahu's spokesman. "As a government we have shown great restraint."
But Meir Margalit, a Left-wing city councillor who has campaigned against Palestinian house demolitions, said his colleagues were intent on ensuring the preservation of a Jewish majority in Jerusalem.
"The idea is to convince Palestinians to leave their homes voluntarily by making life so hard for them that they will move to other places," he said.