International Solidarity Movement, Khan Al Ahmar, Palestine Friday 6th June
This week, Israeli forces began preparing for the demolition of the Bedouin village Al-Khan Al-Ahmar, in between Jerusalem and Jericho in the West Bank of Palestine. They met village residents and protesters with extreme violence on Wednesday and Thursday in an attempt to clear the area and proceed with the destruction of the entire village. Palestinian and international solidarity activists have been staying in the village school, which serves over 150 children from the surrounding area, for several weeks in order to prevent the demolition. Israeli forces arrived on Wednesday with construction vehicles to start preparing a temporary road to the village from the main road to allow bulldozers to come through. Residents and activists stood in the path of the construction vehicles peacefully protest the demolition, and Israeli forces responded with extreme violence, arresting 13 people and injuring 35, 4 of whom went to hospital. A human rights activist from Israeli organisation B’tselem was amongst those detained. Israeli forces dragged one woman to the ground, removing her hijab and attacked other women. Watch a video of Israeli forces’ violence here.
On Thursday morning, Israeli forces arrived to Khan Al Ahmar at around 7.30, to continue with the preparations for demolition. A group of eleven Palestinian, Israeli and international activists chained themselves together in front of the bulldozer, and one activist succeeded in chaining himself to the bulldozer. Israeli riot police forcefully removed three of the activists with wire cutters and violently arrested them. The activists who were arrested were from the UK, Canada and the US. They have since been released. At this point a large group of local residents, Palestinians and international activists were gathered to protest the Israeli destruction of the village. Over the next few hours they were forced back by Israeli forces, and placed in the school as the bulldozer proceeded to flatten the ground in front of the villager’s dwellings so that the demolition can take place in the next few days. Israeli forces filmed activists throughout the morning, and also prevented local journalists and human rights observers from entering the village from the main road, giving out traffic fines to those arriving.
As this statement from the village of Khan Al Ahmar reiterates, the demolition of the village marks part of the ongoing Nakba, or forcible removal of Palestinians from their homes. The community was displaced from their homes in the Naqab desert in 1950 by Zionist militias, and settled in their current homes in the hills between Jerusalem and Jericho. The area is inhabited by similar small communities of Jahalin bedouins who were also ethnically cleansed from the Naqab during the Nakba. Israel has been attempting to remove these small communities for several years as part of its plan to link two nearby illegal settlements, Kfar Adumim and Maale Adumim with Jerusalem, effectively annexing a huge area of the West Bank from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, and cutting off occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. The residents of Al Khan al Ahmar have been protesting the demolition of their village for years, filing appeals in the Israeli High Court of Justice. Human rights groups in Palestine have pointed out that the destruction of Khan Al Ahmar constitutes the forcible removal of a population, which is a war crime according to international law. The court denied the latest appeal in May this year, and ordered that Israeli government had found a solution for the residents in their transfer to Al-Jabil, near Abu Dis. The residents have refused this transfer, pointing out that the proposed site is cramped and next to the municipality garbage dump. Despite the protestations of residents and human rights groups in Palestine, Israel has been proceeding with the E1 plan since 2015, destroying 35 structures in Khan Al Ahmar and 57 in the wider E1 area. However, the Israeli High Court ruling in May this year gave the Israeli government the green light to demolish the entire village.
The international community has spoken out against the destruction of Khan Al Ahmar, with some British MPs visiting the village in previous weeks, and holding an emergency session in Parliament on Wednesday. The EU expressed concern about the demolition yesterday, reiterating that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal according to international law. PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi pointed out, however, that “words of warning to Israel are not enough. If there is no serious intervention from the international community towards the Israeli government and its belligerent military occupation, other villages will be next, and more Palestinian men, women and children will be displaced for another 70 years to come.” There has been no condemnation of Israel’s attempts to destroy Khan Al Ahmar from the US government.
Late on Thursday night the Israeli High Court put a temporary suspension on the demolition, but activists on the ground today in Khan Al Ahmar have reported that Israeli forces are continuing in their preparations.
Read this official statement from the village of Khan Al Ahmar here. The village is calling for further action from the international community to put pressure on Israel to stop the illegal demolition.