JERUSALEM: Israel’s Supreme Court has deferred by at least a month the government-planned demolition of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank that had stirred Palestinian outrage and international concerns.
The court last week issued an 11th hour injunction against the demolition at the request of the villagers of Khan Al-Ahmar, who said their attempts to secure retroactive building permits had been ignored by Israeli zoning authorities.
Responding this week, the state rejected that argument as false and as an attempt to buy time.
In Thursday’s decision, the Supreme Court summoned both sides for a session by Aug. 15, effectively putting the demolitions on hold.
Around 180 Bedouin, raising sheep and goats, live in tin and wood shacks in Khan Al-Ahmar. It is situated outside Jerusalem between two Israeli settlements.
Israel said it plans to relocate the residents to an area about 12 km away, near the Palestinian village of Abu Dis. But the new site is adjacent to a landfill, and rights advocates say that a forcible transfer of the residents would violate international law applying to occupied territory.
Most countries consider settlements built by Israel on land it captured in the 1967 Middle East War as illegal, and an obstacle to peace.
They say they reduce and fragment the territory Palestinians seek for a viable state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
Israel disputes this and cites biblical, historical and political connections to the land, as well as security needs.
Also on Thursday, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said new Israeli restrictions on Gaza would worsen living conditions there.
Agency spokesman Chris Gunness said it could have “profound and far-reaching consequences for already desperate civilians.”
Gaza is home to nearly 2 million people, 80 percent of whom rely on humanitarian aid.
Israel this week shut the only cargo crossing with Gaza in response to incendiary kites and balloons sent across the frontier into Israel. It is still allowing food, medicine and humanitarian aid in through the crossing.
The kites are part of a campaign led by Hamas against a crippling blockade Israel and Egypt imposed when the militant group seized control of the territory in 2007.