The European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Palestine urged the EU to act urgently and decisively to prevent the demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar, a Bedouin refugee community in Palestine’s West Bank.
“The Delegation has visited Khan Al-Ahmar recently whilst on mission to Palestine and met the community there. 140 people, more than half of them children and already living in precarious conditions, are under threat of losing their homes in the rain and cold of winter. The EU must act now to ensure that these people can keep their homes,” Neoklis Sylikiotis, Chair of the Delegation, urged in a letter to EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. “This Delegation would firmly and unequivocally support the EU in strong and humane action to defend this community”.
Last Sunday the community was given a 7-day deadline for self-demolition. If they do not demolish their own homes, the Israeli Civil Administration could demolish the structures.
Khan al-Ahmar is in an area earmarked for illegal Israeli settlement expansion and has strategic importance to preserve the continuity of a future Palestinian state.
“These demolition orders and similar ones by the Israeli authorities have a sole objective: to enlarge the settlements and divide the West Bank. We strongly oppose all actions that are part of the annexation policy of Israel,” Chair Sylikiotis said.
“The EU has stated repeatedly its position for the two-state solution. We have also re-iterated that settlements are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace between Israel and Palestine. The EU must act decisively to defend our positions which are based on international law,” Chair Sylikiotis said. “The forcible transfer of these people would be would be a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel must observe its duties as the occupying power under international humanitarian and stop settlement expansion and construction”.
The Delegation deplored the decision of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council to proceed with the preparation for the Association Council with Israel.
“The EU must hold Israel to the standards and values on which it is built, and not press onward with deepening relations whilst at the same time condemning settlements and demolitions. We must be coherent in our action,” Mr Sylikiotis said. “If Israel wishes to be considered a democratic country to the standard to which the EU holds itself to be democratic, it must actually respect international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Palestinian human rights, and cease its flagrant violations of both”.
Pressure on Palestinian communities has increased significantly in 2017. According to the UN, the Israeli authorities have demolished 172 Palestinian structures in Area C and East-Jerusalem. 289 people have been displaced and almost 4,000 others have been affected. Of the 137 Palestinian-owned structures destroyed in January 2017, at least 36 structures were funded by the EU as aid, according to EU data. This was a 60 % increase in overall destruction in comparison with the equivalent period in 2016 and twice the number of EU structures have been demolished. Significantly, 2016 was a record year for demolitions.
The EU’s humanitarian activities are carried out in full accordance with International Humanitarian Law, and aim to provide humanitarian support to the most vulnerable people, including the increasingly-under pressure Bedouin communities.