Above Photo: WAFA Images / Suleiman Abu Srour.
The demolition has been greenlit by Israel’s Supreme Court, despite being termed a war crime by ICC prosecutors in the past.
Hundreds of Palestinians gathered on Monday, January 23, near Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank to oppose the proposed Israeli plan to forcefully displace the residents by demolishing their village.
The protesters gathered following the calls for demolition issued by ultra right-wing Itamar Ben-Gvir, interior minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. It was also rumored that Ben-Gvir would be visiting Khan al-Ahmar along with his cabinet colleague and settler leader Bezalel Smotrich.
Following the removal of an illegal Israeli outpost called Or Chaim in the region, Ben-Gvir had demanded the immediate demolition of the Palestinian village on Monday.
Maarouf Rifai, legal advisor to Palestinian Authority (PA), who participated in the protests, told Al Jazeera that Khan al-Ahmar “is Palestinian land. It is private Palestinian land. There is no excuse for the Israeli government, other than to develop the ‘Greater Jerusalem’ plan and to link the settlements surrounding East Jerusalem in order to clear this area from Palestinian Arabs.”
He asserted that PA will not let Khan al-Ahmar be demolished.
A War Crime
Khan al-Ahmar, in the occupied West Bank, is near Jerusalem and between Kfar Adumim and Ma’ale Adumim, one of Israel’s largest illegal settlements. Nearly 180 people, mostly Bedouins, live in the village.
Israel reportedly wants to expand the existing settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and link it with Jerusalem in order to cut off occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied West Bank. The project is a part of its ‘greater Jerusalem’ project to obliterate the distinctive identity of occupied East Jerusalem.
Israeli authorities issued an order to demolish Khan al-Ahmar in March 2010. A lawsuit was filed against the move, which led to a postponement of the plan until May 2018. In September 2018, the Israeli Supreme Court finally greenlit the demolition of the village.
There is a February 1 deadline for the Israeli government to demolish the village or explain to the Supreme Court why this has not been done.
Israel has claimed that the village was built without a permit. It lies in Area C of the occupied West Bank, which is completely under Israeli control. Palestinians claim that it is almost impossible to obtain a permit to build in the area and, and that, in any case, the village of Khan al-Ahmar is older than Israel.
Human rights groups such as B’Tselem and Amnesty International, along with the International Criminal Court’s Office of the Chief Prosecutor, have called the move to forcefully displace the residents of Khan al-Ahmar “war crimes.”
Activists claim that the demolition of Khan al-Ahmer will set a precedent for the demolition of at least 24 more communities in the region, ultimately affecting approximately 12,000 dunums or 1,200 hectares in the occupied West Bank.
Some activists also suggest that the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar is part of Israel’s plan to build a corridor between occupied Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, which will pass through these villages and divide the occupied West Bank into two.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the “criminal demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and the forcible displacement of the Palestinian families” was described as “a grave violation of international law” by the PA.
The PA said that “settler organizations, Israeli governments and officials, and Israel’s tainted judiciary system share the same objective and commit the same crime: illegal annexation by way of displacing the Palestinian people and replacing them with illegal Jewish settlers.”
It also asserted that “by greenlighting the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, Israel’s so-called ‘supreme court,’ once again proved its complicity in the commission of crime,” and that “Khan al-Ahmar existed long before Israel was established and shall stay long after its illegal occupation and apartheid regime are dismantled.”
Despite this being illegal under the laws of occupation, according to Al Jazeera, Israel has demolished close to 50,000 Palestinian homes since the beginning of the occupation in 1967. More than 1,000 Palestinians in Masafer Yatta are facing a similar demolition of their homes, schools, and other structures. This follows an Israeli Supreme Court order last year that gave permission to the Israeli military to displace Palestinians and open a firing range in the region instead.