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French-American professor arrested by Israeli army in Bedouin village dispute

In this Friday, Sept. 14, 2018 file photo, Israeli border police arrest American university professor Frank Romano in the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar. A lawyer for Romano says he was detained by Israeli police for allegedly trying to disr
(AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)

A French-American university professor, who was arrested for disrupting soldiers near the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, is being held in Israeli jail until Monday, his lawyer said on Saturday.

Frank Romano was arrested along with two Palestinian activist when they protested the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village which has been at the center of attention in Israeli and foreign media in recent months.

In May, after nearly nine years of legal battles, Israel’s High Court approved the government’s plan to raze the village.

Activists say Khan al-Ahmar was established without permits after the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, originally from the Negev desert, were expelled from the area by the Israeli military in the 1950's and then again from Kfar Adumim, where they leased land.

Israeli authorities say that village was built illegally, without proper permits, and that it is too close the the major roadway

Romano’s lawyer, Gaby Lasky, said on Saturday that military legislation is being applied in his case, which allows for Israeli authorities to extend the arrest with 96 hours.

THOMAS COEX (AFP)

“In a very exceptional way, military legislation that is enforced in the West Bank has been applied to Frank Romano, who is accused of obstructing the action of Israeli police and soldiers, so that the maximum time before comes before a judge is 96 hours,” Lasky told AFP.

Lasky said that Romano is due to appear before a military court on Monday, but that it’s highly unusual to apply military law to foreign citizens.

Israeli NGO, B’Tselem, said Romano has decided to hunger strike “until the abandonment” of the decision to demolish Khan al-Ahmar.

On Thursday, the European Union parliament passed a resolution declaring Israel’s destruction of Khan al-Ahmar and the eviction of residents a violation of international humanitarian law. The resolution also said it may well even be considered a war crime.

The EU Parliament accordingly called on Israel to stop "its policy of threats of demolition and actual eviction against the Bedouin communities."

It also demands "compensation from Israel for the destruction of EU-funded infrastructure,” amounting to EUR 315,000 of EU funds invested in the Palestinian village.

A joint statement issued by the EU’s chief Federica Mogherini and five major powers -- UK, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy -- warns of the threat posed to the only viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as the village is located in a strategic E1 area that earmarked for Israeli development which forms a buffer east of Jerusalem that would divide the West Bank and badly hurt prospects for a contiguous Palestinian state.

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