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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

‘Thousands’ of Palestinians to protect village ahead of demolition deadline

Israeli soldiers are expected to descend on Khan Al Ahmar to enforce its demolition after Monday deadline

Demonstrators wave Palestinian flags in front of Israeli troops as they protest against Israel's plan to demolish the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan Al Ahmar. EPA
Demonstrators wave Palestinian flags in front of Israeli troops as they protest against Israel's plan to demolish the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan Al Ahmar. EPA

Thousands of Palestinians are expected to descend on the West Bank village of Khan Al Ahmar on Monday as an Israeli deadline for residents to leave their homes expires, raising fears it will be demolished.

Palestinian officials and activists say the “intensive mobilising” is to stop Israeli forces, which occupy large parts of the West Bank, from demolishing the Bedouin village after the Monday midnight deadline passes.

They will be joined by several foreign diplomatic representatives, mostly from European Union member states, who the Palestinians have called in to witness events at the village.

“People are going tonight. I think they [Israeli soldiers] will move in,” a Palestinian official told The National.

Israeli courts issued the demolition order earlier this month and Israeli security forces have delivered letters to residents telling them to move by October 1, or the demolition order will be enforced.

Dozens have remained at the village for several months, but the Palestinian presence is set to increase as Israel edges closer to demolishing the village. The Palestinians believe the move will clear the way for further connections between illegal Jewish settlements from Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley, and will cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank.

The village, which has a population of around 180, including 92 children, is located between the settlements of Ma'ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim. The residents of the makeshift hamlet next to an Israeli highway lack basic infrastructure and eke a living by farming goats and sheep.

The majority of the international community considers Israel’s settlement enterprise to be illegal under international law and counter to a two-state solution under which a sovereign Palestinian state would co-exist alongside Israel.

A general strike in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza on Monday will have a dual purpose. Israel’s Arab community will strike against the recent Nation State Law that declares only Jews have the right to self-determination in what is modern-day Israel, but which Palestinians view as their historic land.

The strike will also allow Palestinians to travel to Khan Al Ahmar to protest against its planned demolition, says Lama Nazeh, senior member of the popular committees against the wall and the settlements.

“Everything will be closed. All the institutions. All the commercial stores. So people can go there and protect the community there,” the lawyer, who will travel to the village on Monday, told The National.

She predicted there would be “hundreds” of protesters at the village to stave off its destruction, from Sunday night, and from Monday, “tomorrow, thousands”.

The protests will be peaceful in line with international law in the face of what Palestinians say is a breach of that global code.

“The demolition is a war crime,” says Ms Nazeh. “It’s unfair on the civilians, and the confiscation of the land for the interests of the settlements is illegal in international law.”

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Read more:

'Jerusalem is not for sale' Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas tells the UN

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UN

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The Palestinian Authority, the main political body in the West Bank, has made the survival of the village a priority and will hold its weekly meeting in the village on Monday.

Earlier this month, Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said they had filed a petition to the International Criminal Court against Israel over the pending demolition. He has also held two press conferences from the village.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also spoke of the village in his United Nations General Assembly address.

“We resist this colonial, settler Israeli occupation through the legitimate means created by this international organisation,” he said.

“Foremost among these is peaceful, popular resistance ... such as in Khan Al Ahmar, which the Israeli government has decided to forcibly uproot and displace its Palestinian inhabitants, who have lived there for more than 50 years, in order to illegally impose settlement activities in that area and to sever the contiguity of the Palestinian State.”

Israel argues that the structures in the village were built without proper permits but Palestinians say it is near-impossible to get Israeli permits for any buildings at the site. It has existed since the 1950s, after Israel forced people from their homes in Tel Arad in the Negev Desert.

As part of interim peace deals in the 1990s, the West Bank was carved up into autonomous and semi-autonomous Palestinian areas, known as Areas A and B, and Area C, which is home to 400,000 Israeli settlers. Khan Al Ahmar lies in Area C, which remains under exclusive Israeli control.

As for how long the Palestinians will remain to protest in Khan Al Ahmar, Ms Nazeh says it will be as long as it takes.

“We are going to remain there, and we are going to try and stop their plan,” she said.