Will ICC probe Israel’s demolition of Khan al-Ahmar?

Israeli forces raid the occupied West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar on 13 September. 

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Israeli military forces bulldozed and blocked access roads to the occupied West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar on Friday.

This video shows Israeli soldiers assaulting a Palestinian elder who was taking part in protests against the military’s action:

Israeli forces tore down makeshift caravans near Khan al-Ahmar on Thursday.

Residents and activists had erected the caravans between the Palestinian village and the nearby Israeli settlement of Kfar Adumim.

The camp, dubbed Wadi al-Ahmar, was built to protest Israel’s plan to demolish Khan al-Ahmar.

“Solidarity groups are expected to maintain a presence until Israeli troops come to demolish the village,” the leftist Israeli website +972 Magazine reported.

Home to almost 200 people, Khan al-Ahmar is in an area east of Jerusalem known as E1, where Israel plans to expand its settlements of Maaleh Adumim and Kfar Adumim and connect them to Jerusalem.

All of Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law.

According to the UN, more than 8,000 Palestinians face forcible transfer by Israel in the central West Bank, 3,500 of them in the E1 area.

Expanding settlements into E1 would isolate the northern and southern parts of the West Bank from each other, ruling out the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state.

Israel’s high court gave the final approval for the forced displacement of the community of Khan al-Ahmar earlier this month after a long legal battle between residents of the village and Israel.

Israel could demolish the village and forcibly displace its residents any day now.

The high court’s decision will make its judges complicit in a war crime if the demolition takes place, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said.

Prosecuting Israeli leaders at The Hague

The Palestine Liberation Organization has filed a petition with the International Criminal Court in The Hague accusing Israel of war crimes in relation to its imminent demolition of Khan al-Ahmar.

Saeb Erekat, a senior figure with the Palestinian Authority, announced the action at a press conference in Ramallah on Tuesday.

Erekat called on the ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to meet the council of Khan al-Ahmar and open an investigation into Israel’s plans to demolish the village.

The PA official “clarified that the petition was not a new complaint but rather an addendum to an entire case against the Israeli settlement enterprise in the West Bank that was filed to the court on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in May,” according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

US threatens to impose sanctions on ICC

Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton threatened that the US would impose sanctions or seek to criminally prosecute officials from the ICC if they pursue investigations into alleged war crimes committed by the US or Israel.

The situation in Palestine has been under preliminary examination by the prosecutor’s office since 2015.

“The US threats against the ICC is a coup against the rules-based international system,” the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic mission in Netherlands said in a statement.

“The Trump administration wants to dismantle the international order to ensure that it can stay above the law and escape accountability along with its ally, Israel.”

Complicit corporations

The Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) highlighted the importance of campaigning to save Khan al-Ahmar.

“Popular struggle and international solidarity have defended Khan al-Ahmar until today from expulsion, and have stopped the bulldozers manufactured by international corporations from inflicting destruction,” the committee stated.

The BNC named companies that manufacture bulldozers used by Israel to demolish Palestinian Bedouin communities like Khan al-Ahmar, including JCB, Caterpillar, Volvo, Hyundai, Hitachi and LiuGong.

Human rights groups and international officials have campaigned to stop the destruction of Khan al-Ahmar.

“The planned demolitions will dramatically affect the lives and dignity of this community,” David Quesne of the International Committee of the Red Cross stated.

“As long as zoning and planning policies in the West Bank fail to serve the population living under occupation, they cannot be used as justification for destruction of property.”

The European Parliament approved a resolution on Thursday that demands “compensation from Israel for the destruction of EU-funded infrastructure” should the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar take place.

“The demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and the forcible transfer of its residents would constitute a grave breach of international humanitarian law,” the resolution states.

Israel caused an estimated $74 million in destruction to EU-funded projects from 2001 until 2016. That includes $26 million of destruction to EU projects during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.

The EU has done nothing to hold Israel accountable for the destruction of its property and its relentless violations of Palestinian rights.

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Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.