Israel/OPT: Demolition of Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar is cruel blow and war crime

Monday’s planned demolition of a West Bank village and forcible transfer of its residents to make way for illegal Jewish settlements is a war crime that lays bare the Israeli government’s callous disregard for the Palestinians, Amnesty International said today.

Some 180 residents of the Bedouin community of Khan-al Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, face being forcibly evicted and transferred by the Israeli army. The Israeli authorities have offered the villagers a choice of two possible destinations: a site near the former Jerusalem municipal garbage dump, near the village of Abu Dis, or a site in the vicinity of a sewage plant close to the city of Jericho.

“After nearly a decade of trying to fight the injustice of this demolition, the residents of Khan al-Ahmar now approach the devastating day when they will see their home of generations torn down before their eyes,” said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“This act is not only heartless and discriminatory; it is illegal. The forcible transfer of the Khan al-Ahmar community amounts to a war crime. Israel must end its policy of destroying Palestinians’ homes and livelihoods to make way for settlements.” 

Khan al-Ahmar, home to the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, is surrounded by several illegal Israeli settlements. For more than 60 years, members of the tribe have been struggling to maintain their way of life. Forced from their lands in the Negev/Naqab desert in the 1950s, they have been continually harassed, pressured and resettled by successive Israeli governments.

In late August 2017, Israeli Minister of Defence Avigdor Lieberman announced that the Israeli government would evacuate the entire community within several months. Israel’s Supreme Court has twice ruled in favour of demolishing the entire village of Khan al-Ahmar, first on 24 May 2018 and again on 5 September 2018, following a desperate appeal by the residents of the village. The demolition order includes the village’s school, which is constructed from rubber tyres and provides education for some 170 children from five different Bedouin communities. 

The Court ruled that the village was built without relevant building permits, even though these are impossible for Palestinians to obtain in the Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank known as Area C.

Israel’s policies of settling Israeli civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, wantonly destroying property and forcibly transferring Palestinians living under occupation, violate the Fourth Geneva Convention and are war crimes listed in the statute of the International Criminal Court.

Since 1967, Israel has forcibly evicted and displaced entire communities and demolished more than 50,000 Palestinian homes and structures.

On 30 September, Amnesty International, alongside Jewish Voice for Peace, launched a Twitter storm targeting the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), an Israeli Defence ministry unit responsible for implementing government policy in Area C of the West Bank, ahead of the planned demolition on 1 October.