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Israel's High Court freezes West Bank Bedouin village demolition until July 16

Demonstrators try to halt a digger in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank on July 4, 2018
Ahmad GHARABLI (AFP)

The controversial scheduled demolition of a Bedouin village in a strategic area in the West Bank was pushed back on Monday after Israel’s High Court of Justice issued a temporary injunction preventing the state from carrying on with its plan to evacuate residents from the village.

Palestinian lawyers representing the residents of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village located in the Jerusalem Governorate of the West Bank, filed a petition last week claiming that no eviction orders had been given to the residents as the law requires in matters of evacuation.

The lawyers claim that only demolition orders had been issued, which causes the High Court to order a response from the State by July 16, meaning the demolition will be be postponed until then.

After years of legal fights, the High Court approved the States' plan to demolish the village, which it says was built without proper permits as well as being located too close to a highway.

The activists and lawyers who defend the residents of Khan al-Ahmar argue that they were forced to build without permits since Israel rarely issues those to Palestinians living in that particular area of the West Bank.

Activists say the community 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.

The some 180 people living in the village have been offered by Israel to be relocated to the nearby town of Abu Dis, which they have refused.

Ahmad GHARABLI (AFP)

The village is located east of Jerusalem near several Israeli settlements along a road leading to the Dead Sea, in a strategic area known as "E1".

Israeli settlements in the E1 area form a buffer east of Jerusalem that Palestinians say would divide the West Bank and badly hurt the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state.

The international community generally opposes all Israeli settlement building, but has voiced particular concern about plans for E1.

Last week tensions grew in the Bedouin village when the IDF seized access to roads leading to the village and heavy demolition equipment entered the area, including bulldozers.

-International attention-

On Thursday, several European diplomats tried to pay a solidarity visit to the threatened West Bank village but police barred them from reaching a school there.

Diplomats from Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the European Union sought to visit the school in Khan al-Ahmar which is funded by several European countries, but they were turned back at the village entrance.

Police at the scene said the area had been declared a closed military zone.

"We were briefed by local leaders but refused access by security forces to the school," the Irish representative office to the West Bank wrote on its official Twitter feed.

"We wanted to show our solidarity with this village which is threatened with destruction, for humanitarian reasons and because it is a major issue of international law," the Consul General of France in Jerusalem, Pierre Cochard, told journalists at the scene.

He said that demolishing the village, would be a violation of the Geneva convention laying out the obligations of an occupier toward those under its control.

It would also significantly complicate the search for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he added.

“These demolitions, together with plans for new settlement construction for Israelis in the same area, exacerbate threats to the viability of the two-state solution and further undermine prospects for a lasting peace,” a statement from the EU’s mission in Israel said in Thursday.

The EU mission argued that the village of Khan al-Ahmar is “critical for the contiguity a future Palestinian state.”

The EU is often vocal in its criticism against Israel, both regarding the IDF's conduct in Gaza but also on the challenges which Palestinians face on a daily basis in the West Bank.

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