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UK repeats call to save Khan al-Ahmar

The UK and seven other EU countries have urged Israel not to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar.

Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Poland, and the Netherlands released a joint statement yesterday, ahead of a UN meeting on the Middle East, that said the demolition “would be very serious and would severely threaten the viability of the two-state solution and undermine prospects for peace”.

Israel has not announced when the village will be demolished. On 13 September Israel destroyed five trailers that had recently been set up near the village.

After a ten-year legal dispute involving four separate cases, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in May that the village was built illegally and permitted the Government to proceed with a demolition plan. The Court also approved the Government’s plan to relocate the 180 residents to a new site in “Jahalin West,” near Abu Dis, on the outskirts of East Jerusalem. The relocation plan includes building a new school and providing each family with plots of land which would be connected to electricity and water.

Shani Sasson, a spokeswoman for The Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), said the village is not a safe living space and the Israeli Government has invested $2m in the relocation project.

The UK Government, along with France, Germany, Span and Italy, had previously made clear that the proposed demolition is counter-productive and “would trigger a reaction from EU member states”. In early September, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling Israel’s decision to demolish the village a breach of international humanitarian law and demanded “compensation from Israel for the destruction of EU-funded infrastructure”.

Saeb Erekat said that the Palestinian leadership has petitioned the International Criminal Court in The Hague to start legal procedings against Israel to challenge the demolition of the the village. Right-wing Israeli NGOs argue that the Jahalin tribe are privately keen to relocate but claim that external international pressure has helped to scupper proposed deals, and they have received threats from the Palestinian Authority urging them to stay.