Israel's planned Bedouin village demolition 'a war crime'
European Union Parliamentarians accused Israel of committing a war crime, after a delegation visited the Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar on Wednesday.
A delegation of six European Parliamentarians, chaired by Cypriot European Member of Parliament Neoklis Sylikiotis, visited the village and met with Khan al-Ahmar residents and activists who formed a vigil in an attempt to deter Israel from demolishing the village.
Sylikiotis promised Palestinians that the European Parliament will vigorously work to preserve Khan al-Ahmar, adding the parliament will continue to oppose demolition of the village and other Bedouin communities in the area.
He urged that forceful transfer of people living under occupation is a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, meaning Israel’s action constitutes a war crime, according to Palestinian Authority’s official news agency WAFA.
He affirmed the delegation’s support for the freedom of Palestine, along with Palestinian rights to justice and self-determination and to be free from occupation and apartheid, WAFA added.
Earlier this month, Amnesty International also accused Israel of committing a war crime by approving the demolition of the impoverished village.
“With this shameful and manifestly unlawful ruling the Supreme Court has confirmed a pattern of complicity in the crime of forcible transfer of Palestinian communities for the expansion of Jewish only settlements”, Saleh Higazi, Head of Office in Jerusalem for Amnesty International said.
“The court has not only completely denied the petitioners the protection provided to them by International Humanitarian Law, it has also validated the discriminatory policies of the Israeli authorities.”
‘Sewage or landfill – pick one’
The present village, which has a population of 173, including 92 children, consists mainly of makeshift structures of tin and wood, as is generally the case with Bedouin sites.
The residents of the village are being given two options for relocation - one of which is to live by a landfill in Abu Dis until a structure next to a sewage plant close to Jericho can be arranged.
The village is being demolished under the Israeli pretext of being built without a permit.
But activists say the villagers had little alternative but to build without Israeli construction permits, which are almost never issued to Palestinians.
Applying for building permits also comes with various taxes and fees that amount to tens of thousands of dollars - an unaffordable move for many Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, where 27 percent live under the poverty line.
Applications for building permits are also known to take years to be processed, giving Israeli courts a loophole to increase Palestinian home demolitions by branding structures as "illegal".
Khan al-Ahmar 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.