JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel announced Sunday the suspension “for a number of weeks” of the evacuation of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, in the occupied West Bank.
The decision was upheld after a meeting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s security cabinet.
The Hebrew State, which has long sought to drive away Arab nomads from this piece of land located between the Jewish settlements of Maale Adumim and Kfar Adumim, believes that the village was erected without a building permit.
The Palestinians, who have lost an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court to prevent evacuation, say the permits are impossible to obtain.
Khan al Ahmar is home to 180 people in tin cabins and planks on an arid hill near an Israeli road connecting Jerusalem to the Dead Sea.
Israel plans to demolish Khan al-Ahmar and relocate its inhabitants 12 km further, near the Palestinian village of Abu Dis and next to a garbage dump. This project provoked an uproar among Palestinians and critics from European countries.
Foreign pressure intensified on Wednesday when the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court declared that the transfer of population to occupied territory constituted war crimes.
Residents of Khan al-Ahmar, supported by foreign activists who have gathered at the site, expect bulldozers to intervene at any time since the October 1 deadline for the demolition of shacks.
An Israeli government official said on Saturday on condition of anonymity that the evacuation had been postponed and that an alternative relocation plan was being discussed jointly with the Palestinian Authority.
In front of the journalists Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu however warned that he had “no intention to postpone (the operation) indefinitely, contrary to what can be said, but for a short period.”
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry described the postponement as “nothing more than an Israeli attempt to calm foreign and local critics”.
Palestinians accuse Israel of wanting to shave Khan al-Ahmar to create an arch of Jewish settlements that would de facto isolate East Jerusalem from the West Bank, two territories captured by Israel in 1967 during the Six-Day War