Israeli court suspends razing of Bedouin village in West Bank: lawyer

FILE PHOTO: A Palestinian woman argues with an Israeli soldier as she rides on an Israeli bulldozer in the Palestinian Bedouin village of al-Khan al-Ahmar near Jericho in the occupied West Bank July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s top court suspended on Thursday the planned demolition of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank whose fate has become a focus of Palestinian protests and international concern, a lawyer for the residents said.

The Supreme Court injunction, issued a day after Israeli security forces sparked scuffles at Khan al-Ahmar by moving in bulldozers, gave the state until July 11 to respond to the villagers’ contention that they had been unfairly denied building permits, lawyer Alaa Mahajna told Reuters.

The court spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Around 180 Bedouin, raising sheep and goats, live in tin and wood shacks in Khan al-Ahmar. It is situated between a major Israeli settlement, Maale Adumim near Jerusalem, and a smaller one to the northeast, Kfar Adumim.

Palestinians say Israeli building permits for Khan al-Ahmar have been impossible to get. Israel has long sought to clear Bedouin from the area between the two settlements, and the Supreme Court approved the demolition in May.

Removing the Bedouin, human rights groups say, would create a bigger settlement pocket near Jerusalem and make it more difficult for Palestinians to achieve territorial contiguity in the West Bank, a territory they seek along with the Gaza Strip for a future state.

Israel said it plans to relocate the residents to an area about 12 kilometers (seven miles) away, near the Palestinian village of Abu Dis.

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. The United Nations and European Union have come out against the plan.

Most countries regard settlements Israel has built in the West Bank as illegal. Israel disputes this.

Khan al-Ahmar’s residents belong to the Jahalin tribe of Bedouin who were expelled from southern Israel by the military in the 1950s.

Interviewed before the Supreme Court injunction on Thursday, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan signaled that the Khan al-Ahmar demolition might not be imminent.

Noting the level of international opposition to the move, Erdan told the Ynet news site: “I hope this decision will be implemented in the coming weeks.”