Fears grow as Israel prepares to demolish Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar
Residents and activists voiced concern on Wednesday that Israel is set to raze a Bedouin village in a strategic part of the occupied West Bank ignoring international calls for a reprieve.
Activists said the Israeli military issued a warrant to the 173 residents of Khan al-Ahmar on Tuesday authorising it to seize access roads to the village.
Heavy equipment, including at least one bulldozer, were seen around the village on Wednesday, leading to speculation a road was being prepared to facilitate its evacuation and demolition.
"Today they are proceeding with infrastructure work to facilitate the demolition and forcible transfer of residents," Amit Gilutz, spokesman for Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, told AFP.
Israeli authorities say the village and its school were built illegally and in May, the supreme court rejected a final appeal against its demolition.
But activists say the villagers had little alternative but to build without Israeli construction permits as the documents are near impossible for Palestinians to obtain for that part of the occupied West Bank.
Israel authorities say they have offered villagers a relocation site. They did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Britain's minister of state for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, visited the village in May and called on the Israeli government to show restraint.
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.
Khan al-Ahmar is located east of Jerusalem near several illegal Israeli settlements along a road leading to the Dead Sea.
Activists are concerned continued Israeli settlement construction in the area could effectively divide the West Bank in two, making a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.
The village is located in the 60 percent of the West Bank known as Area C, which remains under exclusive Israeli control and is home to hundreds of Israeli settlements.