Israel’s High Court of Justice issued an injunction on Thursday night, July 5, temporarily holding up the planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank that has become the focus of Palestinian protests and international concern.
The court injunction, issued a day after security forces sparked scuffles at the site by deploying bulldozers, gave the state until next Wednesday, July 11, to respond to the villagers’ contention that they had been unfairly denied building permits, said Ala’a Mahajna, the lawyer representing them.
The appeal was filed following the state’s refusal to examine a plan to regularize the village submitted by its residents. After the officials respond the court will decide whether to proceed with deliberations on the case, or dismiss the appeal and allow the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar to go ahead. Lawmaker Ayman Odeh (Hadash), head of the Joint List, described the planned demolition as “war crime which will leave entire families without a roof over their heads.”
Israel has faced mounting international condemnation as its security forces continued preparations to demolish the village. On Wednesday morning, Israeli soldiers cracked down on activists who had come to support the residents, injuring 35, four of whom were hospitalized. Thirteen people were arrested, including a female teenager, a PLO official said.
Palestinian and Israeli peace activists say the goal of the scheme to displace Palestinian residents is to expand illegal settlements and isolate East Jerusalem from Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
Walid Assaf, head of the National Committee to Resist the Wall and Settlements, credited activists on the ground for the injunction. He also thanked foreign diplomats and lawyers who worked on the case and regularly visited the community in support. “We will persist here until a final decision is issued,” Assaf was quoted as saying by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa. In a statement release on Thursday by the Negotiations Affairs Department of the PLO, Khan al-Ahmar residents called for the international community to “hold Israel accountable for its crimes.”
On Thursday, prior to the court’s decision, the United Nations warned that displacing Palestinian villagers has “serious human rights and humanitarian law consequences”. Scott Anderson, head of the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement that “The latest developments are of serious concern, as it is evident that they are undertaken with the objective of relocating the concerned communities, as well as causing serious distress to the vulnerable residents who are watching what appear to be preparations for the demolition of their community.”
“These pastoral communities are mostly Palestinian refugees – originally displaced from their tribal lands in the Negev. They should not be forced to experience a second displacement against their will,” Anderson said. “The issue of Khan al-Ahmar illustrates Israel’s objective of widespread and systematic forcible displacement of Palestinians and replacement with Israeli settlers, as part and parcel of Israel’s broader scheme of creeping annexation.”.
Israeli police kept a delegation of European diplomats out of Khan al-Ahmar on Thursday. The diplomats — from Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Switzerland — went there to display solidarity with the residents whose homes are threatened with imminent demolition. In particular, they sought to visit an ecological school, which has been funded, by EU countries. However, police had cordoned off the area which had been declared as a closed military zone and refused entry to the Europeans.
“We were briefed by local leaders, but refused access by security forces to the school,” the Irish representative to the Palestinian Authority said in a tweet. The Consul General of France in Jerusalem, Pierre Cochard, told journalists at the scene that “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.”
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