Palestinians vow to foil Israeli demolition of Khan al-Ahmar

The Palestinian Authority called on the US and European Union to pressure Israel to not demolish Khan al-Ahmar in Area C of the West Bank.

 View of the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank on January 23, 2023.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
View of the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank on January 23, 2023.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The Palestinian Authority has urged the United States and the European Union to prevent the demolition of the Bedouin herding village of Khan al-Ahmar, located in Area C of the West Bank.

“Khan al-Ahmar is an integral part of the Palestinian territories, while settlements, including outposts, are illegitimate and illegal according to international law,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

It called for a “firm” international, American and European position and pressure on the Israeli government to stop the implementation of the eviction, dubbing it a “racist, expansionist colonial project.”

The appeal came amid demands by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and some members of the Likud Party to immediately evict the residents of the village.

MK Danny Danon and the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs Committee called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ignore international pressure on this issue.

 View of the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank on January 23, 2023.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) View of the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank on January 23, 2023. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

“The illegal Khan al-Ahmar outpost should be evacuated. The international community will not dictate Wild West policies to us in Israel,” said Danon, who chairs the organization World Likud.

Danon spoke during a press point near the herding village of tents and huts that overlooks Route 1, just below the Kfar Adumim settlement.

The Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Yuli Edelstein joined Danon, as did representatives from Regavim, which spoke of the latest step in the group’s protracted legal battle against the hamlet that dates back to 2009.

Danon explained that “the Khan al-Ahmar outpost was established by an unlawful Palestinian takeover of state lands and the illegal buildings here should have been vacated and demolished a long time ago.

“Israel is a state of law. We must not put up with selective law enforcement: Khan al-Ahmar must be evacuated immediately,” he said.

Edelstein said the government should deliver “a sharp and clear statement: Khan al-Ahmar should be evacuated. It is forbidden to reward lawbreakers,” adding that “the failure to raze Khan al-Ahmar legitimizes Palestinians.

“It is clear to everyone that these people have become propaganda tools in the hands of those who are anti-Israeli and preventing the people there from receiving a proper permanent solution,” Edelstein said.

THEIR ARGUMENT has gained steam this week, not just because of the upcoming court date, but also due to Netanyahu’s decision to evacuate on Friday an illegally built settler outpost in the Samaria region of the West Bank less than 24 hours earlier.

The prime minister said that he had done so out of respect for the law, a statement that immediately irked the settlement movement and right-wing politicians, who believe that the IDF has not done enough to crack down on illegal Palestinian building. The Israeli Right pointed to Khan al-Ahmar as a prime example of lawlessness in the West Bank.

What does the Palestinian Authority say about Israeli attempts to demolish Khan al-Ahmar?

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry condemned the “heinous campaign of incitement by ministers, members of the Knesset and extremist settlers to demolish the village.”

Senior PLO official Azzam al-Ahmed, who visited Khan al-Ahmar on Monday together with senior PA officials, claimed that the intention to demolish the village was part of an Israeli plan to “besiege” Jerusalem by expanding settlements and outposts and cutting the northern part of the West Bank from the southern part.

Ahmed said that previous protests by the Palestinians and some international parties over the past few years “thwarted” the alleged Israeli scheme.

“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, who is fleeing from corruption cases, has returned in alliance with the filthiest, racist, extreme right-wing forces in an attempt to remove any Palestinian community near Jerusalem.”

Azzam al-Ahmed

“Netanyahu, who is fleeing from corruption cases, has returned in alliance with the filthiest, racist, extreme right-wing forces in an attempt to remove any Palestinian community near Jerusalem,” Ahmed said, vowing to resist any plan to evict the residents of the village.

The PLO official held the US administration responsible for settlement expansion. He also accused the US administration of failure to fulfill its promises and commitments, especially its declared opposition to unilateral measures.

Muayad Shaban, head of the Palestinian Commission for Resisting the Wall (Israel's security barrier) and Settlements, said the Palestinians won’t allow Israel to demolish the village.

“The Palestinian people will stand with the residents of Khan al-Ahmar in this battle,” Shaban said. “Our people won’t allow the separation of the eastern part of the West Bank from its southern part. The Israeli scheme aims to eliminate the Palestinian cause and prevent the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”

During the protest in the village, Palestinians chanted slogans against Ben-Gvir and denounced him as a “coward.” They also chanted: “We prefer death to humiliation.”

EID ABU GHALYEH, a spokesperson for the Khan al-Ahmar residents, said the Palestinians were determined to prevent the demolition of the village. “We will remain on our land,” he said. “We’re not going anywhere. This is our land and our right.”

Hamas, for its part, threatened that Israel would “pay the price sooner or later” if it proceeded with the plan to demolish the village.

“The occupation’s crimes in Khan al-Ahmar are a continuation of the Nazi-fascist criminal policy and reveal the true face of the occupation and its extremist government.”

Mohammed Hamadeh

“The occupation’s crimes in Khan al-Ahmar are a continuation of the Nazi-fascist criminal policy and reveal the true face of the occupation and its extremist government,” said Mohammed Hamadeh, a spokesperson for the Gaza-based terror group. “The occupation is deluding itself if it thinks that the Palestinian people will allow this aggression to pass unnoticed. Our people in Khan al-Ahmar won’t submit to the policies of the occupation and will continue the resistance until the liberation of Palestine.”

Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas, said the Palestinians are capable of “defending their land and holy sites.” The group condemned Israel’s measures at al-Aqsa Mosque compound (Temple Mount) and Khan al-Ahmar as a “declaration of war on Jerusalem and the entire Palestinian people.”

Outside of Khan al-Ahmar, Regavim Director General Meir Deutsch said that the village must be understood as a “mega-issue that goes far beyond” this particular hamlet.

The Right has been concerned that the Palestinian Authority’s support for Khan al-Ahmar is part of its plan to de facto seize control of Area C, particularly in the strategic area around the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement with its E1 hilltop. It has warned the same problem exists throughout the West Bank with respect to illegal Palestinian construction.

“Our annual documentation and mapping of the illegal construction in Area C proves that in the past decade, the Palestinian Authority has taken tremendous strides toward establishing a de facto state in the heart of the Land of Israel – and the government is simply closing its eyes to reality,” Deutsch said.

“The new government must prove to the voters who elected them that it is a real Zionist nationalist government – and place the battle for Area C at the top of the agenda. The question regarding Khan al-Ahmar is no longer whether the outpost will be evacuated, but when and how.”

The 180 Bedouin who live in Khan al-Ahmar belong to the Abu Dahuk clan of the Jahalin tribe who were expelled from the Negev and into the West Bank after the War of Independence. They settled into their current location in the 1970s and would like to remain there.

Israel has sought to avoid a violent demolition of their homes, by finding a compromise solution.

The High Court of Justice already ruled in 2018 that the structures in Khan al-Ahmar could be razed. Netanyahu halted plans to demolish the village after receiving a warning from the International Court of Justice’s former chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that such a demolition could be considered a war crime.