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Israeli court delays demolition of West Bank village again

The Khan al-Ahmar community, on a strategic highway east of Jerusalem, was slated for demolition in 2018 after a ruling that it was built without Israeli permits.

AFP
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A general view of the Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar, which Israel plans to demolish, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jan 23. Photo: Reuters
A general view of the Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar, which Israel plans to demolish, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jan 23. Photo: Reuters

Israel's Supreme Court on Tuesday approved a new delay to the controversial demolition of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank.

The Khan al-Ahmar community, on a strategic highway east of Jerusalem, was slated for demolition in 2018 after a ruling that it was built without Israeli permits.

Right-wing Israeli group Regavim had taken the government to court in order to force officials to raze the village, whose 200 residents have drawn international support.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing administration, which took office in December, had requested more time to decide on Khan al-Ahmar's fate, telling the court it needed an extension before presenting a plan to demolish the village.

In Tuesday's ruling, the Supreme Court granted a delay until May 1, but also expressed regret that the government was "satisfied with the current situation... postponing its response every few months".

The court imposed a fine of 20,000 shekels (around US$5,750, RM24,719) over the government's "general attitude" to the case.

Prior administrations have delayed their decision on Khan al-Ahmar eight times.

Israeli media said the government fears Khan al-Ahmar's demolition could worsen already spiralling violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Opponents of the demolition believe levelling Khan al-Ahmar would pave the way for the expansion of Israeli settlements in the area, effectively forming a barrier between annexed east Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.

Israel has been under international pressure to block the demolition, with European diplomats most recently visiting the community on Jan 30.

'Grow up' 

Regavim said on Tuesday that "the Supreme Court is once again covering for the government's failure to formulate and enforce comprehensive policy... for Judea and Samaria," using the Jewish biblical terms for the West Bank.

"The time has come for the state of Israel to grow up, to stand up, and to take itself seriously," it added in a statement.

Khan al-Ahmar is located in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control and where it is almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain construction permits.

Foreign states have told Israel that demolishing the village would be a violation of international law.

Netanyahu's government, the most right-wing in Israel's history, has announced its intention to pursue a policy of settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

Two of Netanyahu's extreme-right coalition partners, who have a history of inflammatory remarks about Palestinians, have taken charge of critical powers regarding the territory.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian teenager in the West Bank city of Nablus, the Palestinian health ministry said, with the Israeli army saying he had fired on soldiers.

Since the start of the year, the conflict has claimed the lives of 42 Palestinians – including attackers, militants and civilians.

Six Israeli civilians, including a child, and one Ukrainian civilian have been killed over the same period.

The West Bank, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, is home to about 2.9 million Palestinians.

An estimated 475,000 Jewish settlers now also live in West Bank communities considered illegal under international law.

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