BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Israeli state has called on the Israeli Supreme Court to approve plans to demolish an entire Palestinian Bedouin community and forcibly transfer its residents to the town of Abu Dis, which human rights groups say would amount to a war crime.
The state submitted its response to the court on Sunday regarding 46 demolition orders threatening the community of Khan al-Ahmar, located east of Jerusalem in the central occupied West Bank, saying the village should be demolished by the middle of 2018.
Another petition has also been submitted by Israeli settlers asking for the demolition of the school in the community, which was established in 2009 and serves more than 150 children between the ages of six and fifteen — some of them from neighboring communities.
No date has yet been scheduled for the court to rule on the case.
Israeli NGO Peace Now, which monitors settlement expansion, stressed in a statement Monday that “This type of forceful evacuation of protected persons constitutes a severe violation of international humanitarian law.”
“While the government argues that the residents of Khan al-Ahmar will receive alternative housing, they will in fact be evicted against their will for the benefit of settlers, and placed above a garbage dump in Abu Dis,” the statement said.
The group further accused the Israeli government of advocating for the forcible displacement of Khan al-Ahmar’s residents as “compensation” to right-wing Israelis, ahead of the evacuation of an illegal settlement outpost called Derech HaAvot that the Supreme Court ordered to be demolished.
While settler outposts constructed in occupied Palestinian territory are considered illegal by the Israeli government, each of the some 196 government-approved Israeli settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have also been established in direct violation of international law.
“It is shameful that settlers from Kfar Adumin, who received their lands for free from the government, are fighting for the evacuation of their Palestinian neighbors, who resided in the area longer before them,” Peace Now’s statement concluded, referring the the illegal settlement located adjacent to Khan al-Ahmar.
Hagai El-Ad, director of Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, also emphasized in a statement that the Israeli state was asking the court to authorize a war crime: “No sanctimonious language about a ‘planning, proprietary and realistic’ alternate, or ‘time to prepare’ can erase the disgrace or hide the facts: the destruction of Khan al-Ahmar means the forcible transfer of protected persons, and forcible transfer is a war crime.”
Two weeks ago, B’Tselem said in a letter addressed to the Israeli prime minister, defense minister, justice minister, chief of staff, that they would bear responsibility for the war crime if the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar is carried out.
According to updated data cited by B’Tselem, Khan al-Ahmar, which is situated on land Israel has earmarked for illegal settlement expansion in the area, is home to 32 families — about 173 individuals, including 92 minors.
Israeli forces notified Khan al-Ahmar’s residents last week that they are at risk of imminent forcible transfer from their lands, weeks after Israeli Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman reportedly announced that plans were underway to expel them within a few months.
Earlier this year, Israeli authorities delivered demolition notices to every single home in Khan al-Ahmar, including the village’s school.
The demolition notices were issued on the basis of the community lacking almost impossible to obtain Israeli building permits, which the United Nations has said results from the discriminatory zoning and planning regimes implemented in Area C — the more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli control.
Khan al-Ahmar is one of 46 Palestinian Bedouin villages comprising of a population of 7,000 — 70 percent of whom are Palestinian refugees — in the central West Bank that are considered by the UN as being at risk of forcible transfer by Israeli authorities to alternative sites.