Friday, October 30, 2020

Israel moves to forcibly transfer entire Palestinian community in the West Bank

By The Palestine Monitor - September 19, 2017
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [forced transfer] [E1] [Jerusalem]

The Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar has been under threat of expulsion for years. Its tyre school, built with mud to protect it from demolition which would apply to “illegal” cement buildings, has become something of a symbol for the right of the Bedouin villages in this area to be protected.

Khan al-Ahmar is located in E1, an area between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumin - Israel's largest settlement - which is of strategic importance for the Israeli government. Israel's “E1” construction plan has been frozen since 2009, following international pressure. Critics have long argued that Israeli construction in this area, which is located in Area C of the West Bank, would jeopardise prospects for a two-state solution as it would link Ma'aleh Adumim to Jerusalem, breaking the territorial contiguity of a prospective Palestinian state.

Now Netanyahu's government, emboldened by Trump and his right-wing, pro-settlements administration, appears to be taking steps to finally evict the community.

All structures in the village received stop-work orders earlier this year. Israel considers Palestinian buildings in Area C “illegal construction” for lacking building permits, which however are impossible for Palestinians to obtain. According to B'Tselem, Israel has avoided approving the master plans needed in order for construction to receive permits for over 90 percent of Palestinian villages in Area C - while retroactively legalising outposts. Palestinians are altogether barred from building in 70 percent of the West Bank under different pretexts, including the declaration of firing zones and designation of land under the the jurisdiction of settlement councils.

On September 13, representatives of the Israeli Civil Administration – the branch of the defense ministry in charge of civilian matters in the occupied territories - gave the community an ultimatum, according to Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. Khan al-Ahmar's residents were told their only option is now to move to a designated relocation site in al-Jabal west, near the Palestinian town of Abu Dis. Rights groups have criticised the Israeli government for drawing up the plan without consulting the community. The site is near a garbage dump.

Just two weeks ago, Israeli defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the press his ministry was “preparing for the evacuation of Palestinian communities built without authorization” and that “work was being done to implement plans to evacuate the Palestinian villages of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills and Khan al-Ahmar near Ma’aleh Adumim within a few months.”

Rights groups and the UN say Israel's policies in Area C, including the demolitions of homes built without permits, create a coercive environment that amounts to forcible transfer, a war crime under international law. 2016 saw the highest number of home demolitions since records began in 2009.

Should these plans go ahead, it would be the first time Israel expels entire Palestinian communities since 1967.

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