Israel destroys trailers set up in contentious Bedouin village
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Israel destroys trailers set up in contentious Bedouin village

Older structures still standing in Khan al-Amar, whose slated demolition has prompted international censure

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli forces on Thursday demolished five trailers that were set up recently outside a Bedouin village in the West Bank that is due to be demolished.

The trailers, erected out of shipping containers, had been set up earlier in the week as a form of protest against the expected razing of the encampment, Khan al-Amar, near the Israeli settlement of Kfar Adumim east of Jerusalem.

The demolition of the structures was carried out by the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration, which oversees the day-to-day management of the West Bank.

“The Civil Administration’s Supervisory Unit carried out enforcement against five movable structures that were illegally transported to, and erected in, the vicinity of Kfar Adumim over the past few days,” the Defense Ministry body said in a statement.

“This enforcement activity was carried out in accordance with regulations and according to the law,” it added.

In a ruling last week, the High Court of Justice cleared the way for the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, rejecting a final appeal, in a case that has drawn international condemnation of Israel.

Palestinian activists had set up the five shipping containers outside the Bedouin hamlet on Tuesday as a form of protest.

Activist Abdallah Abu Rahmeh said that setting up the white structures, one of them flying a Palestinian flag, served as a message to Israel that “it’s our right to build on our land.”

Palestinians girls sit by newly made shed in the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, September 11, 2018 (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The Civil Administration said the construction of the trailers had been “advanced by representatives of the Palestinian Authority” in violation of the understandings between Israel and the PA regarding construction in Area C of the West Bank.

Under the Oslo Accords, the West Bank was split into three areas: A, which is governed by the PA; B, which is under joint Israeli-PA control; and C, which is under full Israeli control.

Opponents of the demolition of Khan al-Amar, which is located in Area C, argue that it is part of an effort to enable the expansion of nearby 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.

In its ruling last week, which was in response to a petition from residents of Khan al-Ahmar, the High Court said that an order preventing the village’s demolition would be lifted in seven days, allowing it to take place as soon as this week.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem claims that the demolition is part of a plan to minimize Palestinian presence in Area C, which accounts for 60 percent of the West Bank.

Israeli security forces arrive to the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, Thursday, September 13, 2018. (Majdi Mohammed/AP)

Right-wing Israeli activists clashed Friday with residents of the village. In footage taken by local Bedouins and Palestinian activists, the residents of the village could be seen exchanging angry shouts with the Israelis from the Im Tirzu organization in a passageway under the Route 1 highway leading to the ramshackle village.

Israeli police officers soon interceded and separated the groups, leading the Israeli activists out of the area.

There has been strong international pressure on Israel to reverse its plans to raze the village, which Israeli authorities say was built illegally.

The judges 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, as well as another proposal that would have moved them to a site east of the Mitzpe Jericho settlement.

The High Court froze the planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar in July when it agreed to hear the residents’ petition.

Demonstrators wave Palestinian flags as they protest against the upcoming demolition of the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar on July 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

In the beginning of that month, the state had begun its preparations to raze the hamlet. 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 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, such as Khan Al-Ahmar, where Israel has full control over civilian affairs.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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