On May 24 2018, following a prolonged legal battle, the Israeli High Court, ruled that the entire area inhabited by the Bedouin community of Khan al Ahmar must be demolished, and its residents forcibly transferred to an urban location near a garbage refuse in Abu Dis, in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli court has given a green light to the Israeli government to go forward with the demolitions after June 1. Urgent action is needed to prevent demolition of the area, including its donor-funded school, as well as the forced transfer of its residents. Khan al Ahmar is one of several Palestinian communities located in the so-called “Area C” of the West Bank under threat of demolition and forced displacement; 45 other Bedouin communities located between Jerusalem and Jericho, comprising about 8,000 people, are also at risk of forced displacement (as well as other communities throughout the West Bank, such as Susiya). Khan al Ahmar is the first such community to have exhausted all legal options and whose demolition is imminent; this will create a legal precedent for the Israeli authorities to expedite the demolition of other entire communities in the West Bank. The newly-issued so-called “Military Order 1797” also points to the fact that the Israeli authorities are striving to expedite the demolition of entire Palestinian communities and infrastructure in the so-called “Area C”. The residents of Khan al Ahmar, who are already refugees and descendants of refugees originally displaced by the Israeli authorities in the 1950s, have clearly and unequivocally stated their opposition to the demolitions and to their forced displacement. The demolition of their community, as well as past demolitions, is part of a coercive environment engineered by the Israeli authorities to pressure these vulnerable and isolated communities to leave their land, paving the way for land confiscation and settlement construction. In 2016, Khan al Ahmar experienced no fewer than eight separate waves of demolitions and confiscations, with 35 structures demolished or confiscated (including 24 donor-funded structures), 66 residents displaced and further affecting 14 residents. International law is clear on the unlawfulness of demolitions of public and private property (Article 53 Fourth Geneva Convention), considered a war crime (Article 8(2)(a)(iv) of the Rome Statute). In addition, forcible transfer constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention (Article 49(1) and 147), as well as a crime against humanity for the purposes of the Rome Statute (Article 7(1)(d) and 7(2)(d)). Khan al Ahmar is one of several Bedouin communities located inside the so-called “E1” area; its demolition has important and irreversible implications. Israel’s “E1” plan, which entails the construction of thousands of additional settlement units in an area between East Jerusalem and the illegal settlement of Maaleh Adumim, will not only physically isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, but would also create a contiguous series of illegal settlements stretching from East Jerusalem to the Jordanian border, thereby dividing the West Bank into two parts and rendering the viability of a Palestinian state virtually impossible. The forced displacement of Bedouin communities located in the so-called “E1” area is thus the first step in the implementation of the “E1” plan. As such, not only is the demolition of the community and the forced displacement of its residents violating international law: it will also facilitate the development of yet another grave violation, namely, the building and expanding of illegal settlements.