UK minister urges Israel not to demolish West Bank Bedouin village

Alistair Burt, British Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, visits Khan al-Ahmar, a West Bank Bedouin village which is under a demolition order. The minister made a last-gasp appeal to Israel not to demolish the village, after the Israeli high court rejected its final appeal. (AFP)
Updated 30 May 2018

UK minister urges Israel not to demolish West Bank Bedouin village

  • Residents said they expected the demolition of the village, which is home to 180 people and includes a school, to happen in the coming weeks.
  • Alistair Burt, British minister of state for the Middle East, visited the village Wednesday and called on the Israeli government to show restraint.

KHAN AL-AHMAR, Palestinian Territories: A British minister on Wednesday made a last-gasp call to Israel not to raze a Palestinian Bedouin village, after the Israeli supreme court rejected a final appeal against its demolition.
The court last week backed the demolition of the village of Khan Al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank, located close to several Israeli settlements east of Jerusalem.
Residents said they expected the demolition of the village, which is home to 180 people and includes a school, to happen in the coming weeks.
Alistair Burt, British minister of state for the Middle East, visited the village Wednesday and called on the Israeli government to show restraint.
“We are very concerned about the impact of the court case last week and the imminent demolition,” he told AFP during the visit.
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.
Burt said they were still seeking to find an alternative to the demolition but stopped short of threatening any direct measures against the Israeli government.
“I will be wanting to seek to persuade Israeli authorities.”
The Israeli supreme court ruled the village was built without the relevant building permits.
Such permits are nearly impossible to obtain for Palestinians in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank.
Israel says it has offered the residents an alternative location.
Eid Abu Khamis, a spokesman for the village, told AFP he had heard messages of support from Western governments for many years but had seen little practical steps to stop Israel.
He told Burt he would like to see action, rather than condemnation.
Separately Wednesday, Israel approved the construction of nearly 2,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank, including 90 within a kilometer of Khan Al-Ahmar, the Peace Now settlement watchdog said.
Peace Now called the approvals near the village “the embodiment of exploitation and evil.”
All settlements are considered illegal under international law.


Scramble for Syria after US withdrawal

Updated 15 October 2019

Scramble for Syria after US withdrawal

  • Turkey considers the SDF and YPG to be terrorists allied with the PKK, who have been involved in a bloody campaign for autonomy against Turkish states for decades

ANKARA: As Ankara pressed on with its offensive in northeastern Syria amid international criticism, Washington announced some 1,000 soldiers were withdrawn from the zone.

With the US departure, the attention turns to how the regional actors, especially Turkey and Syria, will operate in their zones of influence in the war-torn country where the possible escape of Daesh fighters from prisons could result in more chaos.

Some experts claim that with the US decision to withdraw its forces, the territorial claim of northeastern Syria by the Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has finished.

Turkey considers the SDF and YPG to be terrorists allied with the PKK, who have been involved in a bloody campaign for autonomy against Turkish states for decades. The PKK is listed as a terror group by Turkey, the EU and the US.

But, whether some 50,000 YPG fighters will be integrated into the Syrian Army or will try to maintain their autonomy is still a matter of concern.

Mazloum Abdi, commander-in-chief of the SDF, recently wrote for Foreign Policy that the Kurds are finally ready to partner with Assad and Putin.

Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, said: “Damascus and the SDF struck a deal at the Russian base in Hmeymim to let the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) enter the Kurdish-controlled area in the northeast and deploy at the Syrian-Turkish border. The SAA is set to take control over Manbij, Kobane and Qamishli.”

However, Barmin told Arab News that a deal between Damascus and the SDF would greatly contribute to a buffer zone that Turkish President Recep Yayyip Erdogan intends to create in northern Syria, allowing Kurds to take some areas along the border without directly antagonizing Ankara. This policy, Barmin added, would be unacceptable to Moscow.

“There are now lots of moving targets and the goal of the Syrian Army — whether it will take some strategic cities or control the whole border along Turkey — is unclear for now. As Russian President Vladimir Putin is on his official visit to Saudi Arabia, his decision for Syria will be clearer when he returns home,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

Some experts claim that with the US decision to withdraw its forces, the territorial claim of northeastern Syria by the Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has finished.

Barmin also noted that Russia let Erdogan operate the Adana agreement to a certain extent, under which Turkey has the right to conduct cross-border operations.

“But now, Russia would like to show Turkey its own red lines in the region,” he said.

However, Navvar Saban, a military analyst at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul, said that the Syrian regime is not capable of striking a deal without being backed by Russians, and that Moscow would not want to lose its relationship with Ankara.

“Russians always talk about the Adana agreement. We are now talking about a renewal and reactivation of the agreement with new specifications to allow Turkey to go deeper into Syrian territories. In this way, the Russians will have a bigger chance to allow the Syrian regime and Turkey to communicate. It is something that will open the diplomatic channels,” Saban said.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Big sanctions on Turkey coming! Do people really think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey? Never ending wars will end!”

Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said that if the US is completely out of the way, Russia and Turkey will have to either agree or contest each other to take over the US territorial control in northeast Syria. He added that this might be the most crucial race in the coming weeks.

Concerning the diplomatic channels between Damascus and Ankara, Macaron thinks that the channels were and will remain open between Moscow and Ankara since they have common interests beyond Syria.

“If Turkey had no other option, it might have to settle for controlling a few border towns, but this means Erdogan can no longer effectively implement his plan to return Syrian refugees, most notably without funding from the international community. Ankara is more likely to succeed in striking such a deal with Moscow than with Washington,” Macaron told Arab News.

Many experts agree that the Syrian chessboard will be determined predominantly by Russian moves.

“Assad has no say in what will happen next, Russia is the decision maker and there is little the Syrian regime can do unless Iran forcefully intervenes to impact the Russian-Turkish dynamics in the northeast,” Macaron said.