The planned demolition of the Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar and forcible transfer of its residents by Israeli forces was a war crime against Palestinians, the human rights group Amnesty International said yesterday.
"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," Higazi added.
Palestinian residents of a West Bank hamlet braced yesterday for an Israeli court-ordered demolition of their homes as activists arrived to help them resist in case Israeli troops moved in to evict them. Many spent the night sleeping in a school courtyard or keeping vigil as the Israeli-imposed midnight deadline passed for Khan al-Ahmar's residents to evacuate on their own or face forced removal and the demolition of their homes. By the time Daily Sabah went to print, it was still uncertain whether Israel would begin the demolition after the Rosh Hashana holiday that ended at sundown yesterday.
The residents of Khan al-Ahmar are the descendants of Bedouins who were expelled from the Negev by Israel after 1948, and who were relocated to the West Bank. Around 180 Bedouin, raising sheep and goats, live in tin and wood shacks in Khan al-Ahmar. It is outside Jerusalem between two Israeli settlements and was built without Israeli permits, which Palestinians say are impossible to obtain. Israel said it plans to relocate the residents to an area about 12 kilometers away, near the Palestinian village of Abu Dis. But the new site is next to a landfill, and rights advocates say that a forcible transfer of the residents would violate international law applying to occupied territory.
In May, the Supreme Court rejected a final appeal against its demolition after nine years of hearings before various tribunals. The international community called on Israel to reserve the illegal demolition order and forcible transfer of Palestinian Bedouin villages. The Israeli court-ordered West Bank demolition of their homes has become a rallying cry for Palestinians and Israel has come under heavy criticism, with major European countries urging it to refrain from demolition and removal of the 180 or so residents. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to arrive in Israel later this week for an unrelated visit, which may spark a further delay in Israeli actions.
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