B’Tselem- Israel moves to advance forcible transfer of Khan al-Ahmar

Civil Administration signals it is prepared to move forward with the forcible transfer of the entire community, an intention unequivocally stated by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to reporters two weeks ago. Doing so would constitute a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Yesterday (Wednesday, 13 Sept. 2017), representatives of the Israeli military and the Civil Administration (CA) came to the Palestinian community of Khan al-Ahmar, which lies east of Jerusalem, and notified residents that their only remaining option is to move to al-Jabal West – a “relocation” site allocated to the community without consulting them next to the Adu Dis garbage dump. The community’s lawyer, Att. Shlomo Lecker, had expressly informed the Civil Administration officer in charge that he is not permitted to meet with his clients without his consent and presence – yet the CA went ahead regardless. 

This came ahead of a High Court hearing scheduled for Monday, 25 Sept., on the community’s petitions against the state’s plan to demolish all its structures and on a petition by settlements in the area of Ma’ale Adumim to demolish the Khan al-Ahmar school. The CA’s actions appear to be paving the way for the state to claim that it is acting in good will and has consulted the community. 

Demolition of an entire community in the Occupied Territories is virtually unprecedented since 1967. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which Israel is obliged to respect in all its actions in the West Bank, this amounts to forcible transfer of protected persons, which constitutes a war crime.

Last week, B’Tselem sent an urgent letter to Israel’s prime minister and to other top government and military officials, cautioning that demolishing the Palestinian communities of Susiya and Khan al-Ahmar as planned would constitute a war crime for which they would bear personal liability. B’Tselem made the unusual move after Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the press two weeks ago that the defense ministry was “preparing for the evacuation of Palestinian communities built without authorization” and that “work was being done to implement plans to evacuate the Palestinian villages of Sussia in the South Hebron Hills and Khan al-Ahmar near Ma’aleh Adumim within a few months.” 

The forcible transfer of Khan al-Ahmar will enable future expansion of settlements, including in the area designated E1 – a plan being promoted in part by the settler lobby. On Sunday, 27 Aug., hundreds of settlers, joined by MKs Shuli Mualem and Moti Yogev (both of the Jewish Home party), demonstrated near the Khan al-Ahmar community, pressuring the government to move forward with its demolition plan.

Khan al-Ahmar, which lies on land that Israel has earmarked for expansion of settlements near Ma’ale Adumim east of Jerusalem, is home to 21 families numbering 146 persons, including 85 minors. It has a mosque and also a local school, which was established in 2009 and serves more than 150 children between the ages of six and fifteen – some of them from neighboring communities.

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