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Amnesty: Forced relocation of Bedouin could be war crime

Feb. 9, 2012 10:15 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 11, 2012 5:32 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Israel to cancel plans to forcibly displace around 2,300 Bedouin residents from a Jerusalem district.

“Thousands of Bedouin living in some of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank are facing the destruction of their homes and livelihoods under this Israeli military plan," Ann Harrison, interim Deputy Director for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, said.

"Many are registered refugees and some have been displaced multiple times since 1948,” she added.

In July 2011, Israel's civil administration officials first told UN agencies of a plan to evict some 2,300 residents of 20 Bedouin communities in a Jerusalem district to a site approximately 300 meters from the Jerusalem municipal garbage dump, an Amnesty statement said.

The communities are all currently located near illegal settlements in the Maale Adumim settlement bloc, many of them in areas targeted for settlement expansion.

Community representatives told Amnesty International that they reject the plan because it would be impossible for them to maintain their traditional way of life if they were moved to a restricted area near the garbage dump.

Israeli officials have emphasized that the displacement plan envisions connecting relocated Bedouin communities to the electricity and water networks. They have not explained why Israel can provide such services to illegal settlements and unrecognized settler outposts in the West Bank, but not to longstanding Bedouin communities.

“Israeli military officials are putting a gloss on their plans by portraying them as a way of providing Bedouin with basic amenities such as water and electricity, but in fact such forcible relocation of Bedouin would merely perpetuate years of dispossession and discrimination and could constitute a war crime,” said Ann Harrison.

Building in illegal Israeli settlements increased by 20 per cent in 2011, according to the Israeli monitoring group Peace Now, and the Israeli authorities moved to recognize 11 new settlements, home to some 2,300 settlers, by legalizing outposts built without governmental authorization.

Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank forcibly evicted almost 1,100 people in 2011, an 80 per cent increase over 2010 and more than any year since the UN began keeping comprehensive records in 2005.

Ninety per cent of the demolitions occurred in vulnerable farming and herding communities in Area C, including demolitions in several of the Jahalin Bedouin communities.
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