United Nations officials, on Friday, called on Israel to abandon plans to demolish and transfer the Palestinian residents of Khan al-Ahmar community, east of Jerusalem.
The Humanitarian Coordinator, Jamie McGoldrick, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Director of Operations in the West Bank, Scott Anderson, joined others in the international community in calling on the government of Israel to cease its plans to carry out the mass demolition and transfer of the Palestinian Bedouin community of Khan al Ahmar – Abu al Helu, located on the outskirts of East Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.
“Like many Palestinians in Area C, the residents of Khan al Ahmar – Abu al Helu have fought for years to live with dignity, to protect their children, their homes, and their community,” said McGoldrick. “They have struggled in the face of tremendous daily pressure and are asking for the continued support of the international community to prevent the demolition of their homes.”
Following the Israeli Supreme Court’s May 24 rejection of the community’s petition to prevent the demolitions, marking an end to years-long legal efforts and leaving virtually no legal options to protect the community, nearly all of Khan al Ahmar – Abu al Helu’s structures are now at immediate risk of demolition by the Israeli authorities, including the school, initially built with donor support. The school serves some 170 students from the community and four surrounding ones. The proposed transfer seeks to move the rural livestock-dependent community to an urban site unsuitable for Bedouin livelihood, culture and traditions and is likely to increase their level of humanitarian need.
“After nine years of legal battle, this refugee community now faces the demolition of their homes, the loss of traditional livelihoods and the imminent risk of forcible transfer should the demolitions be conducted and the community be compelled to relocate, which would be a grave breach of the Geneva Convention,” said Anderson. “Many already displaced from the [Naqab] as a result of the 1948 conflict; they now face being displaced for a second time. As we have seen in similar circumstances in the past, the transfer of rural Bedouin to the urban setting of Jabal West, proposed by the Israeli state, will likely prove socially and economically devastating,” he concluded, according to WAFA.
Khan al Ahmar – Abu al Helu is one of 18 communities located in or next to an area slated in part for the E1 settlement plan, aimed at creating a continuous built-up area between the Maale Adumim settlement and East Jerusalem. This week, the Israeli authorities approved a planning scheme providing for the construction of 92 new housing units and an educational institution in the Kfar Adumim settlement, immediately adjacent to Khan al Ahmar; this settlement has also petitioned the High Court for the implementation of the outstanding demolition orders against the community.
“Israel’s obligations as an occupying power to protect the residents of Khan al Ahmar are clear,” said McGoldrick. “Should the Israeli authorities choose to implement the outstanding demolition orders in the community and force the people to leave, they would not only generate significant humanitarian hardship but also commit one of the grave breaches of international humanitarian law,” he concluded.