Deadline passes, Palestinians brace for West Bank demolition

This Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018 photo shows a general view of the location where people from a Bedouin hamlet Khan al-Ahmar are supposed to move to near the West Bank village of Abu Dis. (AP)
Updated 01 October 2018

Deadline passes, Palestinians brace for West Bank demolition

  • The Israeli-imposed midnight deadline has passed for Khan Al-Ahmar’s residents to evacuate on their own or face forced removal
  • Israel says the encampment of corrugated shacks outside an Israeli settlement was illegally built and in an unsafe location near a major highway

KHAN AL-AHMAR, West Bank: Palestinians residents of a West Bank hamlet braced on Monday for an Israeli demolition of their homes as activists arrived to help them resist in case Israeli troops moved in to evict them.
Many spent the night sleeping in a school courtyard or keeping vigil as the Israeli-imposed midnight deadline passed for Khan Al-Ahmar’s residents to evacuate on their own or face forced removal and the demolition of their homes. However, it was unlikely this would happen at least before the end of a Jewish holiday at sundown Monday.
Israel says the encampment of corrugated shacks outside an Israeli settlement was illegally built and in an unsafe location near a major highway. It has offered to resettle residents a few miles 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 the demolition plan is against the residents’ will and meant to make room for the expansion of an Israeli settlement.
Israel’s Supreme Court recently rejected a final appeal against the plan, paving the way for Khan Al-Ahmar’s potential demolition, should the government proceed with its plans.
The encampment has become a rallying cry for Palestinians and Israel has come under heavy criticism, with major European countries urging it to refrain from demolition and removal of Khan Al-Ahmar’s 180 or so residents.
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.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to arrive in Israel later this week for an unrelated visit, which may spark a further delay in Israeli action.
Some 200 activists were camped out at the location as the Oct. 1 deadline passed, giving the residents training for that they call non-violent resistance. “We trained them how to quickly move into the shacks, in groups, and make the soldiers’ mission as difficult as they can,” said Monzer Amereh, a leading activist who has been there for weeks. “We are going to sit inside the shacks and will not leave and let them take us out by force.”
Activists said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority has been supporting the community and providing them with legal and financial assistance. Residents have recently planted more trees and set up new shacks in a show of defiance.
“We will not leave, we will sit in the wild until they leave, and we will rebuild it again,” said Eid Khamis, the community’s leader. “This is our land, not their land and we live here and die here.”
Israel says the case is a simple matter of law and order. Officials note that Israel has also evicted Jewish settlers who have squatted illegally. But settlers generally have a much easier time receiving building permits, and the government often retroactively legalizes unauthorized outposts, looks the other way or offers compensation to uprooted settlers.
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 severe 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 for their future state and say that Area C, home also to an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Palestinians, is crucial to its economic development.


Putin, Erdogan to meet ahead of Syria deadline

Updated 20 sec ago

Putin, Erdogan to meet ahead of Syria deadline

  • The two were expected to discuss Turkey’s insistence on the creation of a “safe zone” in parts of Syria
  • Ankara has warned that the offensive against the Kurds will resume if they do not withdraw from certain areas by the time a US-brokered cease-fire deal expires

SOCHI, Russia: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was on Tuesday to meet Russia’s Vladimir Putin, hours ahead of a deadline for Kurdish fighters to withdraw from Syrian border areas or face a renewed Turkish assault.

The two were expected to discuss Turkey’s insistence on the creation of a “safe zone” in parts of Syria where Turkish troops have been fighting Kurdish forces.

Ankara has warned that the offensive against the Kurds will resume if they do not withdraw from certain areas by the time a US-brokered cease-fire deal expires on Tuesday night.

Russia — a crucial ally of Syria’s President Bashar Assad — has demanded that Turkey respect the country’s territorial integrity and Putin was likely to seek commitments from Erdogan on Tuesday.

“The most important thing for us is achieving long-term stability in Syria and the region,” President Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters ahead of the talks.

“We believe this can only be achieved by restoring the unity of Syria.”

Russia and Turkey have emerged as the main foreign players in Syria’s conflict, with Moscow’s position strengthened after US President Donald Trump announced this month he would be withdrawing American forces from the north of the country.

The announcement cleared the way for Turkey to launch a cross-border offensive on October 9 against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, viewed by Ankara as “terrorists” linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Russian forces moved in to replace US troops last week in support of the Syrian army whose help was requested by the Kurds.

Erdogan has said Turkey wants a “safe zone” that is 444 kilometers (275 miles) long up to the Iraqi border, but a Turkish military source on Monday said Ankara was looking first at a 120-kilometer (75-mile) zone.

The source said Kurdish fighters should initially withdraw from the area between Tal Abyad, captured by Turkish forces at the start of the offensive, and the town of Ras Al-Ain.

Ankara’s military action against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), who spearheaded the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, has sparked international outrage.

Erdogan has responded with defiance, accusing Western countries on Monday of “standing by terrorists” in failing to support Turkey’s operation.

The PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and is listed as a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies.

“Can you imagine the whole West stood by the terrorists and all attacked us including NATO member states and European Union countries?” he said.

After crunch talks with US Vice President Mike Pence last week, Turkey said it would “pause” its military offensive on the condition that Kurdish fighters retreated from the “safe zone.”

The source on Monday said the deal would run out at 10:00 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Tuesday, vowing that Ankara would crack down on “any terrorists left” in the area after the deadline expires.

Trump said on Monday that a small number of US troops remain in Syria, adding to an already confused situation.

He said the contingents were near Israel and Jordan — at their request — and also guarding oil fields.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Putin on Monday saying Paris wanted to see an extension of the cease-fire.

“The president underscored the importance of prolonging the current cease-fire, and of ending the crisis with diplomatic means,” the French presidency said after a phone call between the two leaders.