The European Parliament said Thursday Israel’s decision to raze a Bedouin village in the West Bank constituted a grave violation of international law, amid a growing international outcry over the fate of the site.
A resolution passed by the lawmaking body Thursday warned Israel that the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar “would constitute a grave breach of international humanitarian law” and threaten peace efforts with the Palestinians.
“The status quo in this area is of fundamental importance for the viability of the two-state solution and for the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state in the future,” the resolution said.
Israel says Khan al-Ahmar, a hamlet of corrugated shacks east of Jerusalem, was illegally built and has offered to resettle residents 12 kilometers (7 miles) away.
Critics say its removal is meant to make room for an Israeli settlement.
On Thursday morning, Israeli forces demolished five trailers in Khan al-Ahmar that had been set up earlier in the week as a form of protest against the expected razing of the village.
The EU also called on Israel to compensate it for the infrastructure it built in the village worth an estimated €315,000 ($367,000). A school in the community built in 2009 was partially funded by the EU.
The resolution also said the razing of Khan al-Ahmar would set a “negative precedent” for other Bedouin communities facing demolition in the West Bank.
“Israel bears full responsibility for providing the necessary services, including education, healthcare and welfare, for the people living under its occupation, in line with the Fourth Geneva Convention,” the resolution read.
On Tuesday, UN Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned that demolition of the village would impact peace efforts.
Mladenov said the planned demolition of the village would “undermine the prospect for two-state solution and is against international law.”
Opponents of the demolition argue that it is part of an effort to enable the expansion of the nearby settlement of Kfar Adumim and to create a region of contiguous Israeli control from Jerusalem almost to the Dead Sea, a move critics say will bisect the West Bank, making a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.
The Supreme Court rejected an appeal last week to halt the demolition.
Khan al-Ahmar’s demolition had already been approved by the court in May, which the judges noted in their decision last week.
The judges also rejected the petitioners’ request to delay Khan al-Ahmar’s demolition until an alternative site is found for its residents. Residents of the village have opposed the state’s plan to relocate them near a garbage dump belonging to the Palestinian town of Abu Dis, a suburb of Jerusalem, as well as another proposal that would have moved them to a site east of the Mitzpe Jericho settlement, near the Dead Sea.
In the beginning of that month, the state had begun its preparations to raze the hamlet, where none of the structures have been granted permits. Security forces were deployed to the village and construction workers began paving an access road that would facilitate the demolition and evacuation.
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.
But the villagers — who have lived at the site, then in controlled 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 places in Area C of the West Bank, such as Khan al-Ahmar, where Israel has full control over civilian affairs.