Netanyahu rejects reports Khan al-Ahmar evacuation postponed until further notice

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Israeli PM says security cabinet on Sunday will discuss how short a period residents of village will be given 'to try to evacuate it by agreement'

The Khan al-Ahmar community comprises about 35 families (MEE/Akram al-Waara)
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Sunday 21 October 2018 13:37 UTC
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed reports that the forced evacuation of the Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank will be delayed until further notice.

Reiterating that the village would be evacuated, Netanyhau said he would convene a security cabinet on Sunday to discuss how short a period the residents would be given to try to evacuate it by agreement.

"Khan al-Ahmar will be evacuated. This is the decision of the court. This is our policy and it will be carried out," he said in response to a journalist's question regarding the village.

"I have no intention of delaying this until further notice, contrary to what is being reported, but for a short period.

"The length of time in which it will be possible to try to evacuate it by agreement will be decided upon by the Security Cabinet.

"I will convene it today. We will decide; it will be short, and I believe it will also be by agreement."

On Saturday, it had been reported in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that the forced evacuation would be delayed until further notice.

The government is holding off to exhaust negotiations and proposals received from various sources, including some in the past few days, Haaretz said people in Netanyahu's office had said.

Security forces have said in recent days that they are ready to evacuate the village and are waiting for instructions to do so, Haaretz said.

Regavim, a pro-settler Israeli NGO that had initially pushed the plan for displacement of the Bedouin, had issued a statement lamenting the reports and calling it a capitulation to the Palestinian Authority.

Walid Assaf, head of the National Committee to Resist the Wall and Settlements, speaking at a news conference in the protest tent at the village before Netanyahu's latest remarks, said: "We don't trust the Israeli decision to freeze the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, and we will continue our protests to protect the area."

Israel's High Court of Justice on 5 September rejected petitions filed by village residents, paving the way for the eviction of the community and demolition of the entire village. 

'Those under occupation cannot seek justice'

Khan al-Ahmar is in the occupied West Bank near Route 1, which connects occupied East Jerusalem to the Jordan valley. The village is near the illegal Israeli settlement of Kfar Adumim.

The residents of Khan al-Ahmar are from the Jahalin tribe, a Bedouin family expelled from the Naqab desert - also referred to as the Negev - when Israel was established in 1948 in what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba (the catastrophe). The Jahalin then settled on the eastern slopes of Jerusalem.

The Khan al-Ahmar community comprises of about 35 families, whose makeshift homes and schools, mostly made of corrugated metal and wood, have been demolished by the Israeli army several times in past years.

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Khan al-Ahmar: Israel's top court approves demolition of Palestinian village

The village had been built on state-owned land, and its houses were constructed without permits, Haaretz said.

Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said in a statement after the court ruling that "Palestinians cannot build legally and are excluded from the decision-making mechanisms that determine how their lives will look".

"The planning systems are intended solely for the benefit of the [Israeli] settlers. This ruling shows once again that those under occupation cannot seek justice in the occupier's courts," it said.

Israel said in July it plans to relocate the 180 residents of Khan al-Ahmar to an area about 12km away, near the Palestinian village of Abu Dis. 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 territories.

Court Justices Hanan Melcer, Yitzhak Amit and Anat Baron said the main issue in the case was not whether the eviction could be carried out, but where the residents would be relocated, Haaretz noted.