Dozens of Palestinian, international, and Israeli activists try to stop bulldozers from paving an access road that will make easier the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank.
Israeli security forces arrested 10 Palestinians Wednesday as they began preparing for the demolition of an unrecognized Bedouin village in the West Bank.
IDF and police forces, along with representatives from the Civil Administration — the military body entrusted with controlling and monitoring the Palestinian population in the West Bank — arrived at the Khan al-Ahmar at dawn. With the help of bulldozers, they began paving an access road that would allow for the passage of heavy equipment that will be used to demolish the village and evict its residents.
The preparations come a month after Israel’s High Court formally approved a plan to demolish Khan al-Ahmar — home to over 170 people, including 90 children — and forcibly transfer them to an area near a garbage dump close to the West Bank town of Abu Dis. Now that no legal hurdles remain, Israeli army bulldozers can freely arrive at the village, caught between the Israeli settlements of Kfar Adumim and Ma’ale Adumim, at any time.
Meanwhile, the village has become an internationally-known site of resistance to Israel’s practice of forcibly transferring Palestinians out of Area C of the West Bank, under full Israeli military control — an area many members of the Israeli government advocate annexing.
Dozens of Palestinian activists, as well as a few Israelis and internationals, joined Khan al-Ahmar’s residents around noon, blocking one of the bulldozers for an hour. The police, who appeared to have come unprepared for the protest, called for reinforcements. Security forces eventually put down the protest, arresting three Palestinian activists. Israeli police then arrested several more protesters on Route 1, which abuts the village, among them a 20-year-old resident of Khan al-Ahmar and her aunt. Police lightly wounded one Palestinian journalist and broke the lens of a camera belonging to a Palestinian photojournalist.
The Palestinian Red Crescent says it treated 35 activists for injuries sustained during the demonstration. Four of the protesters were hospitalized.
Police also arrested B’Tselem’s Field Research Director Kareem Jubran as he was filming the arrests. Jubran was released on Wednesday evening, although the rest of the detainees were kept in the Ma’ale Adumim police station.
Despite the protests, the bulldozers continues to carry out their work. Passersby could have easily thought they were there to improve the conditions of the village, which is not connected to the electricity grid or water, and has no paved roads. But in the unrecognized villages in both the West Bank and Israel, security forces have one goal: preparing for demolition.
“The situation here is like in al-Araqib and Umm al-Hiran,” says Khan al-Ahmar resident Mahmoud Abu Dawoud in reference to two Bedouin villages in Israel that have fought years-long struggles against demolition. “The goal is to put pressure on us so we sign a deal and leave the village.”
Palestinian activists continued streaming in throughout the day, waving flags and chanting until the bulldozers, the police, and the soldiers left the village at 4 p.m. British Consul-General Philip Hall visited the village in the afternoon, where he heard from residents about the arrests that had taken place just hours earlier, as well as the general condition of the hamlet. Hall listened, adding only that he believes the demolitions hurt the chances of achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians.