The UN Human Rights Office and many European countries have slammed Israel’s decision to demolish a small Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank. Activists claim Israel wants to use the land to expand settlements.
Israeli authorities have moved three bulldozers to Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin herding village in the West Bank, following a court’s ruling that declared the settlement illegal under Israeli law. The military already left a land confiscation notice there on Tuesday, local media reported.
The Supreme Court approved the demolition in May. The village had been built without an Israeli permit, but Palestinians say they are impossible to obtain.
Protests erupted at the village on Wednesday, descending into clashes with Israeli police. Two people were arrested and over 30 were injured, according to a Palestinian ambulance service.
Meanwhile, high-ranked EU and international officials began pounding Israel with condemnation of the looming demolition.
Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the UN human rights office, said that “international humanitarian law prohibits the destruction or confiscation of private property by the occupying power.”
Maja Kocijancic, the EU spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy, lamented the West Bank demolitions, saying they “exacerbate threats to the viability of the two-state solution and further undermine prospects for a lasting peace.”
The French Foreign Ministry asserted that bulldozing Khan al-Akhram, which is located in an area “essential for the continuity of a future Palestinian state,” goes against international humanitarian law. Its statement has also accused Israel of undermining peace prospects for Palestine.
Jamie McGoldrick, the UN Development and Humanitarian Coordinator in Palestine, had also called upon Tel Aviv to reverse the demolition. “Like many Palestinians in Area C, the residents of Khan al Ahmar have fought for years to live with dignity, to protect their children, their homes, and their community,” he said, urging support for people who “have struggled in the face of tremendous daily pressure.”
Sarit Michaeli, an international advocacy officer with B’Tselem, uploaded images of Khan al-Ahmar bracing for the demolition. “This is what a war crime looks like,” she tweeted.
Rights groups say that without the Bedouin village, there will be a bigger settlement pocket near Jerusalem. While Khan al-Ahmar is a small, impoverished settlement of some 180 people – the only school there was literally built from discarded tires – its significance is strategic. Israel is planning to construct a belt of Jewish settlements around Jerusalem in so-called Area C, the major part of West Bank which it completely controls and administers, and Khan al-Ahmar is a likely building site.
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