Israel indefinitely postpones demolition of Bedouin West Bank village

The Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank, is seen decorated with Palestinian flags. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2018
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Israel indefinitely postpones demolition of Bedouin West Bank village

  • Israel had been making the preparations to expel the residents and demolish the village
  • The fate of Khan Al-Ahmar has drawn international concern, with European countries calling on Israel not to move ahead with plans to demolish it

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he has decided to postpone the planned demolition of a West Bank hamlet to allow time for a negotiated solution with its residents, in a move that appeared aimed at staving off the fierce international condemnation such a demolition would likely entail.
Israel has come under heavy criticism, with major European countries urging it to avoid the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar. The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor recently said such a move could constitute a war crime.
Israeli officials said alternative solutions have arrived in recent days from various sources and Netanyahu wanted to give them a chance. That sparked criticism from Netanyahu's hard-line coalition partners who are demanding decisive action. In response, Netanyahu clarified that the hamlet would be razed, and his delay was not open-ended.
"Khan al-Ahmar will be evacuated, it's a court ruling, that's our policy and it will be done," he said. "I have no intention of postponing this until further notice, contrary to reports, but rather for a short, defined period of time."
Netanyahu's Cabinet decided on Sunday to postpone the demolition by "a few weeks" to allow a negotiated settlement.
Israel says the Palestinian Bedouin encampment of corrugated shacks outside an Israeli settlement was illegally built in an unsafe location near a major highway. It has offered to resettle residents a few miles (kilometers) away in what it says are improved conditions — with connections to water, electricity and sewage treatment they currently lack. But critics say it's impossible for Palestinians to get building permits and that the demolition plan is meant to make room for the expansion of an Israeli settlement.
Israel's Supreme Court recently rejected a final appeal, paving the way for Khan al-Ahmar's demolition.
The encampment of 180 residents has become a rallying cry for Palestinians, who have staged large-scale protests at the site for the past few months. Much of the high-level European engagement derives from concerns that such demolitions could threaten the prospect of a contiguous Palestinian state, at a time of already fading hopes for a two-state solution.
For the Palestinians, it is seen as part of a creeping annexation of territory they seek for a future state.
The village is in the 60 percent of the West Bank known as Area C, which remains under exclusive Israeli control and is home to dozens of Israeli settlements. Israel places restrictions on Palestinian development there and home demolitions are not unusual. As part of interim peace deals in the 1990s, the West Bank was carved up into autonomous and semi-autonomous Palestinian areas, known as Areas A and B, and Area C, which is home to some 400,000 Israeli settlers.
The Palestinians claim all the West Bank and say that Area C, home also to an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Palestinians, is crucial to their economic development.
Waleed Assaf, who heads the Palestinian department of settlement affairs, welcomed the Israeli announcement but said opposition would continue "until the Israelis completely revoke the demolition order."
"I think the international pressure, particularly from the EU, and the clear warning from the ICC that the removal of this West Bank hamlet amounts to a war crime prompted the new Israeli decision," he said.
Israel says the case of Khan al-Ahmar is a simple matter of law and order. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman made it clear he favors demolishing the hamlet without delay.
Naftali Bennett, head of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, adopted an even stronger tone.
"This is illegal building whose destruction was approved by the Supreme Court," he tweeted. "In a nation of laws, you enforce the law even if the international community objects and threatens.


Egyptian voters urged to allow El-Sisi rule until 2030

Updated 21 April 2019
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Egyptian voters urged to allow El-Sisi rule until 2030

  • Egyptian officials said the results should be ready in a week after the elections
  • Opposition parties asked voters to refuse the suggested changes

CAIRO: Egyptian pro-government media are urging a "Yes" vote on the second day of a nationwide referendum that would allow President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to stay in power until 2030.
Polls reopened at 0700 GMT on Sunday. Voting will continue through Monday to allow maximum turnout, which the government hopes will lend the referendum legitimacy.
Election officials say results are expected within a week.
Opposition parties have called on voters to reject the changes, blasted by critics as a major step back to authoritarianism.
Voting comes amid an unprecedented crackdown on dissent since the 2013 military ouster of an elected but divisive president.
El-Sisi came to power in 2014 and was re-elected for a second four-year term last year.
Trucks with loudspeakers drove around central Cairo Sunday morning urging high turnout.