UN, Europe urge Israel not to demolish Khan al-Ahmar

The United Nations, the European Union and some of its member states demanded that Israel halt is plans to demolish the West Bank Palestinian Bedouin herding village of Khan al-Ahmar.

“Israel’s settlement policy [is] illegal under international law, and actions taken in that context [against Palestinians], such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes,” the EU spokesperson said late Wednesday night.

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“The EU expects the Israeli authorities to reverse these decisions and fully meet its obligations as an occupying power under International Humanitarian Law,” the EU spokesperson said.

The UN tweeted a statement from its Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov that said, “Such actions are contrary to international law & undermine the two-state solution.”

Under police protection the Civil Administration on Wednesday moved three bulldozers into the village, sparking protests by residents and left-wing activists.

A number of British officials from the embassy in Tel Aviv and the east Jerusalem consulate were also in the village when the bulldozers arrived. Three police officers were lightly injured and 11 protesters were arrested.

The Red Crescent said that 35 protesters and Khan al-Ahmar residents were injured.

France condemned the demolitions and the British Parliament held a debate Wednesday in response.

British Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt said that the United Kingdom was in conversation with other European countries to formulate a cohesive response.

He added that the British ambassador has spoken with Israel’s national security advisor on the issue this week.

“This is something that should not be happening, need not be happening,” Burt said.

This does damage “at a time when many of us are looking to move on the Middle East peace process in which this piece of land might play a significant part," Burt said.

“The timing and the action itself is deeply concerning. Nothing is as of yet irrevocable. We are in conversation already with like-minded partners to see what should be done next,” Burt said.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said that the United Kingdom should recognize Palestinian statehood in response.

British Labor Member of Parliament Wes Streeting said, “is it not time for this country and our European partners to take targeted economic sanctions against illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”

At a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the UN human rights office expressed concern at reports of impending demolition.

“For more than a decade people in the Khan al-Ahmar community… have resisted efforts to move them to make way for settlement expansion,” said spokeswoman Liz Throssell. “International humanitarian law prohibits the destruction or confiscation of private property by the occupying power,” a reference to Israel, which is in control of Area C of the West Bank.

Around 180 Bedouin, raising sheep and goats, live in tin and wood shacks in Khan al-Ahmar. It is situated between a major Israeli settlement, Ma’aleh Adumim, near Jerusalem, and a smaller one to the northeast, Kfar Adumim.

Khan al-Ahmar was built without Israeli permits, which Palestinians say are impossible to obtain.

Israel has long sought to clear Bedouin from the area between the two settlements, and the Supreme Court approved the demolition in May.

“I was born here and will not move anywhere else,” said Feisal Abu Dahok, 45. “If they destroy the village, we will build it again here or nearby.”

Israel said it plans to relocate the residents to an area about 12 kilometers away, near the Palestinian village of Abu Dis.

The new site is adjacent to a landfill and rights advocates say that a forcible transfer of the residents would violate international law applying to occupied territory.

Khan al-Ahmar’s residents belong to the Jahalin tribe of Bedouin who were expelled from southern Israel by the military in the 1950s.

Reuters contributed to this report.