UK minister urges Israel not to demolish West Bank Bedouin village
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UK minister urges Israel not to demolish West Bank Bedouin village

Alistair Burt visits Khan al-Ahmar, says moving residents could be 'forcible transfer of people'; Israeli court ruled construction was illegal

Alistair Burt, British Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, visits the Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin village in the West Bank, May 30, 2018. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
Alistair Burt, British Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, visits the Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin village in the West Bank, May 30, 2018. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

A British minister on Wednesday made a last-gasp call to Israel to not raze a Palestinian Bedouin village, after Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a final appeal against its demolition.

The court last week backed the demolition of the village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank, located close to several Israeli settlements east of Jerusalem.

Residents said they expected the demolition of the village, which is home to 180 people and includes a school, to happen in the coming weeks.

Alistair Burt, British minister of state for the Middle East, visited the village Wednesday and called on the Israeli government to show restraint.

“We are very concerned about the impact of the court case last week and the imminent demolition,” he told AFP during the visit.

He warned that any forced relocation “could constitute forcible transfer of people as far as the United Nations is concerned.”

Forcible transfer is considered a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Burt said they were still seeking to find an alternative to the demolition but stopped short of threatening any direct measures against the Israeli government.

“I will be wanting to seek to persuade Israeli authorities.”

A boy walks through the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, near the Jerusalem-Dead Sea highway, on April 13, 2018. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90)

The Israeli supreme court ruled the village was built without the relevant building permits.

Critics say such permits are nearly impossible to obtain for Palestinians in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank.

Israel says it has offered the residents an alternative location.

Last week a group of 74 Democratic lawmakers urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt the planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and another village, Sussiya.

Eid Abu Khamis, a spokesman for the village, told AFP he had heard messages of support from Western governments for many years but had seen little practical steps to stop Israel.

He told Burt he would like to see action, rather than condemnation.

Separately Wednesday, Israel approved the construction of nearly 2,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank, including 90 within a kilometer of Khan al-Ahmar, the Peace Now settlement watchdog said. Peace Now called the approvals near the village “the embodiment of exploitation and evil.

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