A Christmas tree lighting ceremony was held in Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village in the West Bank, that this year has been the focus of international outcry after an Israeli court ordered it be demolished.
The planned demolition of the tiny hamlet, home to just 180 people, and its famed tyre school, sparked global uproar this year.
The International Criminal Court warned the scheduled October demolition order could constitute a war crime. Meanwhile, Theresa May said the action would be a “major blow” to the two-state solution peace plan.
This week Palestinian officials from the West Bank joined key religious figures including Archbishop Sebastia Theodosios, the only Orthodox Christian archbishop in the Palestinian territories, to light a Christmas tree in the village.
The Jerusalem-based cleric said the tree, decorated with the Palestinian flag, represented “life and freedom”.
Meanwhile Azzam al-Ahmad, from the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, said that Khan al-Ahmar had become the embodiment of “the unity of the Palestinian people” and so lighting a Christmas tree there symbolised “their steadfastness … and celebration”.
Israel’s Supreme Court twice ruled in favour of an eviction order, which said the village’s Bedouin tribe had illegally built their homes in an unsafe location near a main road.
But critics, including the European government and rights groups, said it is impossible for Palestinians to obtain the building permits in the Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank known as Area C.
United Nations officials believe the village is being cleared to make way for the expansion of nearby Israeli settlements, illegal under international law.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reassured Israeli politicians that the village would be demolished “very soon” in late November.
But amid mounting international outcry, the bulldozers have yet to arrive .