Abbas says he will go to International Court of Justice over Khan al-Ahmar

PA president indicates he may also seek court’s intervention over what he claims are Israeli plans for Jewish prayer on Temple Mount

Palestinian protesters wave national flags in front of Israeli troops during a protest against Israel's plan to demolish the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, in the occupied West Bank September 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian protesters wave national flags in front of Israeli troops during a protest against Israel's plan to demolish the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, in the occupied West Bank September 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday he will go to the International Court of Justice over the planned razing of Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank.

Abbas said he would also appeal to the UN’s international court regarding Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, US funding cuts to the UN refugee agency and what he claimed were Israeli plans to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, where it is prohibited as part of a status quo aimed at lowering tensions at the flashpoint site.

“There are two important issues: the issue of Khan Al-Ahmar, whose population are at risk of displacement… This issue, besides the increase in Israeli settlement construction, is of utmost importance and danger,” Abbas told a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee on Saturday evening, according to official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

“We have brought the case to the ICC and will also submit it to the International Court of Justice,” he said.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah Sept 15, 2018. (AFP / ABBAS MOMANI)

Palestinians and the international community have vociferously protested Israel’s plans to demolish the village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, and move its residents to another site.

The state says the structures, mostly makeshift shacks and tents, were built without permits and pose a threat to the village residents because of their proximity to a highway.

Israeli security forces scuffle with American-French protester Frank Romano on September 14, 2018, during a protest against the expected demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

But the villagers — who have lived at the site, then controlled by Jordan, since the 1950s, after the state evicted them from their Negev homes — argue that they had little alternative but to build without Israeli construction permits, as such permits are almost never issued to Palestinians for building in parts of the West Bank where Israel has full control over civilian affairs.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Tuesday that he had filed a claim with the International Criminal Court in The Hague over what he termed “Israeli war crimes” at the village.

The Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank on September 6, 2018. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The dossier submitted “included a focus on the war crimes facing Khan al-Ahmar, specifically the crimes of forcible displacement, ethnic cleansing and the destruction of civilian property,” Erekat said.

The ICJ is the UN’s body for settling disputes between states, whereas the ICC is used as war crimes tribunal. While the Palestinians have appealed to the ICC several times, they have rarely taken disputes to the ICJ.

The last ICJ ruling that affected Israel was a 2004 verdict against the construction of the West Bank security barrier. Earlier this month, Israel participated in a debate at the ICJ for the first time in more than half a century, in what Israeli officials described as an effort to get the Jewish state more involved in matters of international law that have nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

‘Jewish prayers at Al-Aqsa’

Abbas also said he would go to the ICC and ICJ over what he claimed was evidence that Israel planned to allow Jewish prayer on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, though only after consulting with Jordan, which considers itself custodian over the holy site.

“There is also the issue of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where Israel may decide to — and there is much evidence that it will — allow Jewish prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This means that they [the Israelis] are seeking to reproduce the case of the Ibrahimi Mosque.”

The Ibrahimi Mosque, known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs to Jews, is a Hebron holy site where Jewish and Muslim prayer and access is split.

Israeli officials have repeatedly vowed to not disturb the Temple Mount’s status quo, which forbids Jewish prayer there. Rumors of Jewish prayer being allowed have in the past sparked widespread violence.

Jews visit the Temple Mount compound, site of the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem Old City, during the holiday of Sukkot, October 8, 2017 (Flash90/Yaakov Lederman)

Abbas also indicated he would sue the US at the ICJ over its Jerusalem decisions and the slashing of funds for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which provides aid to Palestinian refugees, according to a statement from the PLO Executive Committee after the meeting.

A Palestinian man transports bags of flour outside an aid distribution center run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip ,on September 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The PA has refused to discuss peace talks with US President Donald Trump’s administration since its December decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there, which it did in May. In response, the State Department has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to Palestinians, including UNRWA.

Trump has said aid to the PA will resume if it reaches a deal with Israel. On Thursday, the administration rejected a report that it had offered Abbas $5 billion in aid to resume talks.

On Monday, Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton warned the ICC against prosecution of US or Israeli officials for alleged war crimes in the Middle East.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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