The Israeli High Court of Justice today gave the green light for the demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar, denying a petition filed by its residents.
A Bedouin village situated east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank, Khan Al-Ahmar has faced a protracted ordeal to save the homes of its 180 inhabitants after it was alleged to be built illegally on Israeli state land.
Yet today Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected pleas to save the village and rescinded the temporary injunctions that had barred Israeli authorities from proceeding with the evictions, meaning the village could be demolished within seven days. Israeli Justice Hanan Melcer added however that no immediate eviction was required and a future date could be set at the government’s discretion, Haaretz reported.
Israel’s Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, commented on the decision saying: “I congratulate the judges of the High Court of Justice for a courageous and obvious decision – in the face of a concerted hypocritical assault by [Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas] Abu Mazen, the left and the European countries.”
Lieberman added that the decision proves “no one is above the law. No one will prevent us from exercising our sovereignty and our responsibility as a state,” the Jerusalem Post reported.
The question of where Khan Al-Ahmar’s inhabitants will be forced to live remains to be answered, after alternative sites suggested by Israel were rejected. Israel has previously suggested the Bedouin be relocated to a landfill site belonging to the nearby town of Abu Dis or a site southwest of Jericho, both of which would amount to forcible transfer which constitutes a war crime under Article 8 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Many efforts have been made to save the village. In August, the legal representative for Khan Al-Ahmar, Tawfiq Jabareen, presented evidence that the village is not illegal. The evidence consisted of a map dating from 1942, during the British Mandate era, which showed that Khan Al-Ahmar is located in an area called the Judean Desert Zone. Jabareen explained that “in this area the law says that you are not [prohibited] from building tents and it is still valid today.”
Yet Israel has remained determined to carry out its planned demolition of the village and eviction of its inhabitants. In July it emerged that Israel had planned the demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar 40 years ago to make way for a “Jewish corridor” of illegal settlements cutting through the occupied West Bank. The demolition of this and several other Palestinian villages would make way for Ma’ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim, two illegal Jewish-only settlements situated on the Jerusalem-Jericho road.
To this end, Israeli occupation forces visited Khan Al-Ahmar on 2 July, taking measurements, inspecting the village’s school made of tyres and counting livestock in preparation for the demolition. Residents of Khan Al-Ahmar were then told to leave after the area was declared a closed military zone, and mobile homes were installed in nearby Al-Azariya to relocate them. Only the temporary injunction imposed in July while the petitions were being held has prevented the demolition to date.
Khan Al-Ahmar is home to Al-Jahhalin Bedouins, refugees from the Negev desert who have lived in the area since their displacement by the Israeli army in 1967. Israel has refused to recognise Al-Jahhalin Bedouin communities or grant them building permits, a strategy often used by Israel to term any Bedouin home illegal.