Israel court okays demolition of West Bank village

Palestinian boys sit in the Bedouin village of Khan Al Ahmar near Jericho in the occupied West Bank. (Reuters)
Updated 05 September 2018
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Israel court okays demolition of West Bank village

  • The ruling means that in seven days authorities will be allowed to raze Khan Al-Ahmar
  • “We reject the petitions” against the directive to demolish Khan Al-Ahmar, the supreme court panel said in its decision

JERUSALEM: Israel’s top court on Wednesday upheld an order to raze a Palestinian Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank, clearing the way for the demolition to go ahead despite international pressure.
The ruling means that in seven days authorities will be allowed to raze Khan Al-Ahmar, which Israel says was built illegally.
“We reject the petitions” against the directive to demolish Khan Al-Ahmar, the supreme court panel said in its decision, adding that a temporary order preventing the razing of the village during court hearings “will be canceled in seven days from today.”
It will now be down to the authorities to decide when to carry out the demolition after the restriction order ends.
The United Nations, European Union and rights groups have opposed the razing of the village, which consists mainly of makeshift structures of tin and wood.
They argue the move will enable Israeli settlement expansion that would cut the West Bank in two, making the prospects of a Palestinian state even dimmer.
In May, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a final appeal against its demolition after nine years of hearings before various tribunals.
The court said Khan Al-Ahmar residents had rejected proposals by the state regarding the site of their relocation, and expressed hope “the dialogue” would continue.
Activists say the villagers had little alternative but to build without Israeli construction permits that are almost never issued to Palestinians in the large parts of the West Bank where Israel has full control over civil affairs.
Hussein Abu Dahook, a resident of the hamlet, said the court wanted to “expel Palestinians and replace them with Israelis.”
“We are already refugees, we were expelled 70 years ago, and they want us to move again?” he said, referring to the 1948 war that accompanied Israel’s foundation and forced many Arabs from their homes.
But while Israel has “guns and tanks,” residents of Khan Al-Ahmar would “stay to the end,” Abu Dahook vowed.
Tawfiq Jabareen, one of the lawyers representing Khan Al-Ahmar residents in the petitions, said the court “was following Israel’s right-wing government” in its ruling, which he said was “legally wrong.”
“It is not based on legal arguments and contradicts past supreme court rulings,” he told AFP. “This is unfortunately what the government wants, and the court doesn’t want to intervene.”
Jabareen said there were currently no understandings between the state and residents on a voluntary relocation.
“I’ve never seen someone who’s being expelled and whose house is being destroyed sitting idly by,” he said.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who oversees the occupation of the West Bank, praised the judges for their decision in the face of “the coordinated attack of hypocrisy by (Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas), the left and European states.”
“Nobody is above the law, nobody will keep us from acting on our sovereignty and responsibility as a state,” he said.
Khan Al-Ahmar, which is east of Jerusalem, is located near several major Israeli settlements and close to a highway leading to the Dead Sea.
Diplomats from Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the European Union in July expressed their support of the village, and the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Jamie McGoldrick, condemned the Israeli demolition order.


Gaza border protests provide artist with inspiration, and raw materials

Updated 1 min 51 sec ago
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Gaza border protests provide artist with inspiration, and raw materials

  • Diorama artist Majdi Abu Taqeya spends hours creating three-dimensional miniature replicas of the protest scenes
  • Some neighbours who had been wounded gifted the artist bullets extracted from their bodies

GAZA: One year on from the start of Gaza's border protests, the weekly clashes with Israeli soldiers have become part of the texture of life in the Palestinian enclave, providing inspiration and even raw materials for local artists.

Diorama artist Majdi Abu Taqeya spends hours creating three-dimensional miniature replicas of the protest scenes, with figures carved from remnants of Israeli ammunition collected from the landscape along the frontier.

Wool and cotton are turned into the white and black smoke that swirls over the five protest camps that have been set up along the fortified frontier since the protests began on March 30, 2018.

Elsewhere on Abu Taqeya's wooden boards, Palestinian protesters, ambulances, Israeli troops and tanks and even the wire fence itself are all created in miniature. He uses empty shells of bullets, tear gas canisters and sometimes shrapnel of Israeli missiles.

A bullet triggered the idea, the artist said. At the first day of the protests, Abu Taqeya's youngest brother was shot in his leg and doctors took out the bullet, which he then brought home.

"I turned it into a small statue of a soldier and I gave it to him," he told Reuters.

"It was then when I got the idea to start recycling the remnants of the occupation," said Abu Taqeya, a 38-year-old retired naval policeman.

Gaza health authorities said some 200 people have been killed by Israeli fire since Palestinians launched the protests a year ago. They are demanding the right to return to land from which their ancestors fled or were expelled during fighting that accompanied Israel’s founding in 1948.

An Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper along the frontier.

Israel says it uses lethal force to defend the frontier from militants trying to destroy its border fence and infiltrate under cover of the protests. On Monday, UN war crimes investigators urged Israel to rein in its troops at the border.

In Nusseirat refugee camp, where Abu Taqeya lives, some neighbours who had been wounded gifted the artist bullets extracted from their bodies.

"This bullet was taken from a girl's body, I turned it into a bullet with a butterfly on the top," said Abu Taqeya.

On Thursday, organizers of the protests called for mass rallies on March 30 to mark the anniversary, raising concerns of possible heavy casualty toll. Abu Taqeya urged demonstrators to steer clear of the fence.

"We must not give the occupation any pretext to open fire. These protests must be peaceful," he said, using a Palestinian term for Israel.

Israel pulled its soldiers and settlers out of Gaza in 2005. Citing security concerns, it still maintains tight control of the Hamas-run territory's borders.