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Israel demolishes 8 homes in Jerusalem-area Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar

Oct. 9, 2016 10:19 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 24, 2016 9:35 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities demolished eight homes in the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the central occupied West Bank on Sunday.

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reported that 28 Palestinians, 18 of them minors, were left homeless by the demolition in Khan al-Ahmar.

A spokesperson for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in Palestinian territory, told Ma'an that “enforcement measures” were carried out against “eight illegal structures” belonging to Palestinians near the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim -- which, like all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law.

The spokesperson said that the structures were built in 2012 without hard-to-obtain, Israeli-issued building permits.

“The structures' owners have petitioned to the Supreme Court, which ruled last month that the orders were issued in accordance with the law and the enforcement measures will be taken against the structures,” COGAT added.

The spokesperson added that the Israeli Civil Administration had "completed the establishment and development of the foundation in order to arrange the planning status of members of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe who reside illegally in Ma'ale Adumim and Route 1.”

“Currently, the program is ready to receive families but the Bedouin population refuses to reach an agreement to regulate the planning status and continues to build illegal structures in the area."

In contradiction to these statements, rights groups and Bedouin community members themselves have sharply criticized Israel's relocation plans for the Bedouin residing near the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, claiming that the removal would displace indigenous Palestinians for the sake of expanding Israeli settlements across the occupied West Bank in violation of international law.

A demolition ordered was issued in August against a school in Khan al-Ahmar, although it did not appear that it had been targeted by Sunday's demolition.

Khan al-Ahmar is one of several Bedouin villages facing forced relocation due to plans by Israeli authorities to build thousands of homes for Jewish-only settlements in the E1 corridor.

Settlement construction in E1 would effectively divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state -- as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict -- almost impossible.

Israeli activity in E1 has attracted widespread international condemnation, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has in the past said that "E1 is a red line that cannot be crossed."

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah also denounced the forcible transfer of the Bedouins in August, saying that "Israel's systematic violation of international laws is no longer acceptable by the international community."

That same month, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Palestine Robert Piper warned of a heightened risk of forcible transfer of Bedouins in the occupied West Bank.

Furthermore, Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, although the estimated 550,000 Jewish Israeli settlers are more easily given building permits and allowed to expand their homes and properties.

Nearly all Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C -- the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control -- are denied by the Israeli authorities, forcing communities to build illegally.

Demolitions in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have seen an unprecedented surge in recent months, as Israeli authorities demolished 835 Palestinian structures so far this year, in a large increase from 531 in all of 2015, according to UN documentation.
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