Israel’s destruction of Khan al-Ahmar feared imminent

Palestinian children at the Khan al-Ahmar school on 11 June. The school was built in 2009 out of rubber tires and mud in an attempt to evade Israel’s restriction on Palestinians using cement for construction, and has been under constant threats of demolition.

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Israel’s destruction of the community of Khan al-Ahmar may be imminent, human rights defenders are warning.

On Tuesday, the UN’s human rights office said it was concerned that residents of the community were “at high risk of forcible transfer” in coming days.

Israeli forces arrived in the occupied West Bank village on Sunday, heightening fears among its almost 200 residents.

Soldiers measured homes and road barriers and listed possessions, all of which is typically done prior to a demolition, according to Jahalin Solidarity, a group that advocates for the rights of the Jahalin Bedouin community.

Israeli police told residents that they would be better off if they left “voluntarily,” according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Dozens of activists are taking turns sleeping in the village in an attempt to deter the demolition, +972 Magazine reported.

The spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Israeli authorities to halt demolition plans and “respect the rights of residents to remain on their land and have their status regularized.”

Forced displacement

Khan al-Ahmar lies between between the Israeli settlements of Maaleh Adumim and Kfar Adumim.

This land east of Jerusalem, the so-called E1 area, is where Israel plans to expand its mega-settlement of Maaleh Adumim, completing the isolation of the northern and southern parts of the West Bank from each other.

In May, Israel’s high court approved the forced displacement of the community to make way for Israeli settlement expansion.

Their village will be destroyed and residents will be forced to an area near the garbage dump of the Palestinian village of Abu Dis.

Residents had devised an alternative plan for their community but it was rejected by Israel’s defense ministry.

Forced displacement is a war crime under international law, human rights groups have affirmed.

No option to challenge demolitions

Khan al-Ahmar is located in Area C, which constitutes 60 percent of the occupied West Bank.

Area C remains under complete Israeli military rule under the terms of the Oslo accords signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1990s.

Israel has refused to permit nearly all Palestinian construction in Area C, forcing Palestinians to build without permits and to live in constant fear that their homes or communities will be demolished.

Israel is escalating its moves to force Palestinians off their lands. On 17 June, it imposed a new military order removing “any option for Palestinians to challenge demolition orders that the civil administration issues for new structures, allowing Israel to demolish homes summarily,” according to B’Tselem.

The civil administration is the name Israel gives to the military bureaucracy that rules Palestinians in the occupied West Bank by force.

Under the new order, the military can order the demolition of any uncompleted building, or any structure that has been completed in the last six months. This includes unoccupied buildings as well as homes whose residents moved in within the last 30 days.

The military may even order the demolition of a property that has a building permit. Palestinians have just four days to appeal, after which the army can proceed with the destruction and seizure of property.

“The new military order removes the façade of judicial review over demolition orders and over Israel’s planning and building policy in the West Bank,” according to B’Tselem.

Fast-tracking expulsions

B’Tselem pointed out that this is not the first time Israel has stripped away the façade of legal proceedings to fast-track expulsions and demolitions.

In 2017, Israel began bypassing its own legal formalities in order to expedite the expulsion of Palestinians from land targeted for Israeli colonization.

Previously Israel issued demolition orders for individual buildings. The expedited procedures include wholesale demolition orders for entire communities.

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Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.