Palestinian PM tells residents of Bedouin village to ‘disrupt’ demolition

On visit to Khan al-Ahmar, slated to be razed, Rami Hamdallah praises residents’ ‘steadfast and nonviolent opposition to the Israeli occupation’

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

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah called on the Bedouin residents of the small West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar Thursday to “disrupt” their village’s expected demolition by the Israeli army.

On a visit to the ramshackle hamlet, which lies on the north side of the Route 1 highway that heads east from Jerusalem toward the Dead Sea, Hamdallah thanked the residents for their “steadfast and nonviolent opposition to the Israeli occupation.”

He urged them to continue to oppose the IDF’s evacuation order in order to “disrupt” their planned relocation to plots of land near the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis.

“This occupation will end, without a doubt,” Hamdallah told the residents, according to Channel 10 news.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah during a joint news conference with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, Friday, May 18, 2018 (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The planned relocation of the tiny Bedouin encampment of some 180 souls has drawn vociferous criticism from abroad, with Israel and the International Criminal Court prosecutor in the Hague exchanging criticism this week.

In her statement Wednesday, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda warned the relocation of Khan al-Ahmar’s residents could constitute a war crime according to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC. Shortly afterwards, a senior Israeli official called Bensouda’s impartiality into question.

An Israeli army bulldozer passes by protesters flying Palestinian flags and chanting anti Israel slogans while they try to block the traffic on the highway passing near the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar on September 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Article 8(iv) of the Rome Statute cites as crimes the “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”

Article 8(viii) says the “deportation or transfer of … the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory” is a war crime.

Many governments have urged Israel to refrain from evicting Khan al-Ahmar’s residents, arguing that the forced transfer of a population in an occupied territory violates international law.

Israel argues that the homes were built illegally and dangerously close to a highway, and notes that the demolition was okayed by the High Court of Justice.

A man watches a house that was hit by a missile fired from Gaza Strip, in the city of Beersheba, southern Israel, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

After some 10 years of appeals to the High Court of Justice, the inhabitants of Khan al-Ahmar lost their final appeal last month, and were given an October 1 deadline for evacuation. That deadline passed, leaving the villagers living on borrowed time.

While some speculated that Israel decided to hold off on the razing until after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit earlier this month, a Civil Administration official told The Times of Israel that the defense ministry body was delaying the demolition for technical reasons, not political ones.

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