Supreme Court Accepts Additional Petition by Khan al-Ahmar Lawyers

Israeli’s Supreme Court issued a second temporary injunction on Monday evening, July 10, forbidding the state from carrying out plans to evacuate and demolish an occupied West Bank Arab-Bedouin village, days after initially postponing the plan. Monday’s ruling came in the wake of an urgent petition by a group of lawyers representing the community of Khan al-Ahmar near the large West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and followed a similar one issued by the court last Thursday, July 6.

Demonstrators from Hadash – Communist Party of Israel, Standing Together, Peace Now and Combatants for Peace gathered outside "Independence Hall" in central Tel Aviv to protest against the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar on Monday, July 9.

Demonstrators from Hadash – Communist Party of Israel, Standing Together, Peace Now and Combatants for Peace gathered outside “Independence Hall” in central Tel Aviv to protest against the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar on Monday, July 9. (Photo: Peace Now)

In their initial plea to the court, the attorneys representing the residents of Khan al-Ahmar claimed that the Civil Administration refused to review a plan submitted by the villagers to legalize the village prior to ordering its demolition.

The appeal claims that no eviction orders were ever filed against the residents, as required before any village is evacuated. Instead, claim the Palestinian attorneys, only demolition orders were issued. The court’s agreement to hear the petition has pushed back the state’s obligation to respond from July 11 to July 16, meaning that, unless the state responds earlier, the evacuation will not take place before the latter date.

Also providing the village a reprieve, the workers of the Defense Ministry body responsible for overseeing the demolition announced that they are going on strike beginning next Tuesday, July 17, due to the Finance Ministry’s failure to implement improvements to their pension plans promised nearly three years ago. In their letter announcing the indefinite strike, the Civil Administration committee stated that among the projects that will not be carried out prior to their return to work is the Khan al-Ahmar evacuation.

If the Supreme Court — following the state’s response — chooses to reject the defense’s petition and the Civil Administration strike is completed, the government will be able to move forward with plans to demolish the village.

As indicated, the court’s latest injunction means that, at the very earliest, the state will not be able to evict the residents from the area until it gives its response to the court which will then make its final ruling, the deadline for which is July 16. If the state does not reply earlier than then, residents say they intend to commence the new school year in the village on July 15 as originally planned. The hamlet has gained international attention for its European-funded “ecologically friendly” school buildings constructed from old tires, mud and used cooking oil, because of Israeli restrictions on allowing standard construction materials to be provided.

After a legal battle that has extended for years, the Supreme Court approved the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar in May. Israeli peace activists say the villagers — who have lived at the site, since the 1950s after the state evicted them from their Negev homes — had little alternative but to build without Israeli construction permits, as these are almost never issued to Palestinians for building in parts of the occupied West Bank, such as Khan al-Ahmar, where Israel has full control over civilian affairs.

Opponents of the demolition also argue that it is part of an effort to enable the expansion of the nearby settlement of Kfar Adumim, and to create a region of contiguous Israeli control from Jerusalem almost to the Dead Sea, a move critics say will bisect the West Bank, and make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.

Last week, the Israeli army issued orders authorizing the seizure of access roads to the village. Heavy demolition equipment has since been moved in, and on Thursday of last week, July 6, bulldozers could be seen widening the access road to the village, feeding speculation that a road was being prepared to facilitate the evacuation and demolition.

A day earlier, clashes broke out between police and protesters in the village. Residents and activists attempted to block construction equipment from advancing, leading to violent scuffles. Police said in a statement that 11 people were arrested during disturbances at the site, and that rocks were thrown at officers. The Israeli rights group B’Tselem said the detainees included the organization’s own head of field research.

Related: Posts on Khan al-Ahmar