Israel gives Khan al-Ahmar residents eight days to clear village

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Israeli forces hand out letters ordering residents to leave their homes in occupied West Bank village by 1 October or be forcibly removed

Israeli forces arrested dozens of people during a protest against the Khan al-Ahmar demolition earlier this month (AFP)
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Monday 24 September 2018 5:24 UTC
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Israeli forces have handed out notices telling residents of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank, to clear their homes by 1 October or be forcibly removed. 

Sunday's notice addressed the "Inhabitants of Khan al-Ahmar" directly and called on residents to take down their tents voluntarily or risk forced demolition by Israeli forces. 

"By the High Court decision you must demolish all buildings within the Khan al-Ahmar no later than 1 October 2018," the letter said. 

"If you refuse, the authorities will enforce demolition orders as per court decision and the law."

Khan al-Ahmar consists of tin and wood shacks built on a desert hillside beside an Israeli highway that runs from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea.

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Palestinians say the demolition is part of an Israeli push to create an arc of settlements that would effectively cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and which the Palestinians seek for an independent state.

Israel plans to demolish the village and relocate its 180 residents - Bedouins who scrape a living by raising sheep and goats - to a site 12km away, near the Palestinian village of Abu Dis and adjacent to a landfill site.

The move has drawn criticism from Palestinians and some European states, who cite the impact on the community and prospects for peace.

Residents say that the proposed Israeli location is unsuitable as the landfill site poses a health risk to locals. 

Village residents vowed not to leave despite the notice, the AFP news agency reported.

"No one will leave. We will have to be expelled by force," said village spokesman Eid Abu Khamis, adding that a residents' meeting would be held later on the issue.

"If the Israeli army comes to demolish, it will only be by force."

Locals and activists on the ground told Middle East Eye (MEE) that Israeli soldiers, accompanied by the local police, came into the village in the early hours of Sunday to deliver the notices. 

The activists, who wish to remain anonymous, said that officers had walked into the activist tent, erected to oppose any potential demolition, and tents where locals live. 

Angela Godfrey, co-director of Jahalin Solidarity and an Israeli peace activist, condemned the proposed demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and told MEE that Israel must "protect the Bedouin people".

"The Bedouin are refugees, protected persons living under occupation; Israel must protect them, and provide for all their needs and human rights," Godfrey told MEE.  

"Instead, the Israeli military, government, settlers and High Court are pushing them to leave Al Khan al-Ahmar so that Greater Jerusalem can be surrounded by the Wall, the West Bank split in two, leaving Palestine non-viable, with Area C dominated by settlers.

"Area C is very much the support system (water, farmland, the border with Jordan, etc) for Areas A and B, so this is about far more than 180 people being forcibly displaced."

'Greater Jerusalem'

The Palestinian Liberation Organisations Colonisation and Wall Resistance Commission also released a statement on Sunday condemning Israel's decision to demolish Khan al-Ahmar. 

"We consider this demolition as another step towards the building of Greater Jerusalem," the statement said. 

"This move gives further proof that Israel is intending to take over the whole of the Jordan valley."

A spokeswoman for Israel's military liaison agency with the Palestinians said no date was set for demolition should the houses remain after the deadline.

"We will not voluntarily evacuate the place," said village resident Faisal Abu Dahuk. "The occupation forces that have an army and weapons can evacuate us by force, but there is no other place to go, and we refuse to be moved anywhere else."

Israel's Supreme Court has rejected petitions to prevent the move, siding with the authorities which say the village was built without the required permits. Palestinians say such documents are impossible to obtain.