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Khan al-Ahmar: Israeli forces detain activists as demolition fears grow

Three Israeli and foreign activists were briefly detained while a Palestinian remains in custody, as villagers fear demolition is imminent
Israeli police officers tackle activists who had blocked bulldozers from reaching Khan al-Ahmar (MEE/Akram al-Wa'ara)

KHAN AL-AHMAR, Occupied West Bank - Clashes erupted between Israeli forces, Palestinians and activists in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank on Monday morning as residents fear imminent demolition of the village. At least four people were detained by Israeli police.

Israeli forces are expected to raze Khan al-Ahmar and evict nearly 200 Palestinian residents after approval for the plan officially came into effect earlier this month.

Israel's Supreme Court has twice ruled in favour of demolishing the village, first on 24 May and again on 5 September, following a desperate appeal by the occupants.

Residents of Khan al-Ahmar and activists who have gathered in the village since Israeli authorities ordered its demolition woke up on Monday to a large pool of water formed in the valley near the village - and in the same location where a lake of sewage appeared last week.

While reports indicated that a water pipe belonging to Israeli national water company Mekorot had burst, some locals speculated that activists had purposefully broken the pipe to block a path to the village and stall the demolition, noting that wood pallets, tin sheets and other debris seemed to have been placed to prevent the water from flowing towards the village.

“This pathway wraps around the entire village, so they (Israeli forces) need to use it to surround the whole area,” Yousuf Abu Dahouq, a resident of Khan al-Ahmar, told Middle East Eye. “The Israeli police were surprised to see the water here, and it broke their plan for the day.

“Because this is one of the main roads they were planning to use to bring jeeps and bulldozers to destroy the village, they need to clear the road to go forward with the demolition.”

Around 50 Israeli police and border police officers arrived at Khan al-Ahmar between 7am and 8am with at least three bulldozers and tried to clear away the water, prompting villagers and activists to come down to the area.

Palestinian and Israeli activists jump on top of an Israeli bulldozer as it attempts to clear out the water-filled path that serves as an entryway for military forces into the village. (MEE/Akram al-Wa'ara)
Palestinian and Israeli activists jumped into the pool to stop one of the bulldozers, at which point Israeli forces arrested one activist.

Meanwhile, confrontations broke out between Israeli forces and activists in other areas of the village, as activists attempted to prevent the officers from entering the village.

Israeli officers were seen pushing several Palestinian and foreign women and elderly to the ground, and at least five people were treated for injuries, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Israeli forces did not allow Palestinian ambulances into Khan al-Ahmar, forcing medics to enter the village on foot to treat people.

Israeli police officers push down a Palestinian woman and foreign activists as they attempted to prevent the forces from entering Khan al-Ahmar (MEE/Akram al-Wa'ara)
Israeli forces detained at least four people on Monday morning, which were identified as Palestinian activist Reyad Salahat, Israeli activists Jonathan Pollak and Kobi Snitz, and Dutch activist Robin Licker. On Monday afternoon, Licker posted on Facebook to confirm that he, Pollak and Snitz had all been released, but that Salahat remained in Israeli custody.

Pollak and Salahat were both reportedly injured by Israeli forces as they were detained.

Abu Dahouq, a Khan al-Ahmar resident, told MEE he feared that demolition was imminent.

“We think that they will come to destroy the village any minute now, especially since the deadline for us to leave passed 10 days ago,” the 43-year-old said.

Israeli forces handed out notices on 23 September to the residents, telling them to clear and demolish their homes by 1 October or else they will be forcibly removed.

The 35 families who live in Khan Al-Ahmar are from the Jahalin tribe, a Bedouin family expelled from the Naqab desert - also referred to as the Negev - after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Khan al-Ahmar is located on the eastern desert hillside of Jerusalem, beside an Israeli highway that leads to the Dead Sea, in part of the West Bank which Israel has illegally occupied for 50 years according to international law.

A Palestinian man stands with his hands raised to the sky in prayer as a group of Israeli police officers stand looking on in the background (MEE/Akram al-Wa'ara)
By removing Khan al-Ahmar, the authorities will be able to construct units linking the illegal settlements of Kfar Adumim and Maale Adumim with East Jerusalem in the Israeli-controlled Area C, splitting the West Bank in half.

Amnesty International has called the Israeli plan a "forcible transfer" and "war crime".

“We, the residents of Khan al Ahmar, have a lot of pressure on us, and there is a lot of pain and hardships being felt by the people of the village,” Abu Dahouq added. “The Israelis are using all kinds of military and psychological attacks against us to kick us out. We are living in war times, and it has become a part of our life.

“The occupation is trying to test the Palestinian people, to see if they will react to the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar ... If Palestinian people don’t show up to defend the village, then it is giving the Israelis the green light to get rid of us.”

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