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Khan al-Ahmar demolition: PLO files a war crime claim to The Hague

Israel scheduled to evict and demolish entirely the Palestinian village after 12 September to make way for building settlements in Jerusalem
Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the Hague-based the International Criminal Court (ICC), August 2018 (AFP)

A senior Palestinian official said on Tuesday that a case has been filed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding the planned demolition of the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar following an Israeli court ruling.

The move comes as US National Security Adviser John Bolton threatened sanctions against ICC officials over possible war crimes investigations against the US and Israel. 

"We will not cooperate with the ICC," Bolton said in a speech on Tuesday, adding that "for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us."

We will not cooperate with the ICC, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us

John Bolton, US National Security Advisor

Saed Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said that the submission urged the ICC chief prosecutor to meet with the council that represents Khan al-Ahmar's nearly 200 residents ahead of the court-sanctioned eviction after 12 September.

"We hope that an official judicial investigation can be opened as soon as possible," Erekat said.

This statement is the latest move by the PLO since the US Department of State closed the organisation's mission in Washington on Monday. The PA envoy to Washington told Associated Press that his staffers have been given a month to pack up after the Trump administration ordered the PLO mission closed.

Hussam Zomlot said on Tuesday that the closure would not deter Palestinians from seeking a state with East Jerusalem as the capital.

Fatou Bensouda, who was elected as ICC chief prosecutor in 2012, said in April that her office was "closely" monitoring the Great March of Return protests in the Gaza Strip along the border fence with Israel.

More than 170 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of the protests on 30 March in Gaza. On 14 May, the day the US moved its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, at least 65 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army.

The ICC's preliminary investigation into the events in Gaza is the first related to the besieged Palestinian territory since Israel's assault on Gaza in 2014.

Demolishing Khan Al-Ahmar

Khan Al-Ahmar is located in the central 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, and has long been subjected to Israeli pressure calling for the community to be removed from the area.

Last week, Israel's High Court of Justice rejected petitions filed by residents of Khan Al-Ahmar, paving the way for the eviction of the community and demolition of the entire village, which can now be carried out any time after 12 September - on Wednesday. 

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 - during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The Jahalin then settled on the eastern slopes of Jerusalem.

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

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Israel intends to demolish the village as part of the so-called E1 plan, which involves building hundreds of settlement units to link the settlements of Kfar Adumim and Maale Adumim with East Jerusalem in the Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank. If fully implemented, critics say the E1 plan would effectively split the West Bank in half.

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. But the new site is adjacent to a landfill, and rights advocates say that a forcible transfer of the residents would violate international law applying to occupied territories.

Palestinian activists and officials say the scheme to displace Palestinian residents in the area aims to expand illegal settlements, isolate East Jerusalem from Palestinian communities in the West Bank and effectively cut off the southern and northern West Bank, forcing Palestinians to make even lengthier detours to travel from one place to another.

'The ICC is already dead to us'

Bolton confirmed on Monday that the Trump administration had closed the PLO's office as "punishment" for its call for Israel to be investigated by the ICC.

Washington's decision is the latest move by President Trump to close and defund pro-Palestinian institutions.

It comes days before the 25th anniversary of the signing of the first Oslo Accords in Washington, DC, between the PLO and Israel.

The US signed the Rome Treaty that established the International Criminal Court in 2002 but never ratified it. The ICC has 123 state parties that recognise its jurisdiction.

"The International Criminal Court unacceptably threatens American sovereignty and US national security interests," Bolton said.

- Additional reporting by Associated Press.

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