Israel removes protest shacks near West Bank

Khan Al Ahmar: Israeli occupation forces on Thursday dismantled five corrugated metal shacks that had been set up by Palestinian activists protesting the anticipated razing of a nearby West Bank hamlet.

Protest leader Abdullah Abu Rahmeh said about 200 occupation soldiers converged on the area of the Khan Al Ahmar encampment before dawn, dismantled the shacks and loaded the parts onto trucks. The encampment itself was not touched. Protesters chanted “Out, out, terrorist army,” as the trucks and soldiers left after daybreak.

The regime’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal last week, paving the way for Khan Al Ahmar’s potential demolition. The occupation Israel says Khan Al Ahmar was illegally built and in an unsafe location near a major highway. It has offered to resettle the residents 12km away under what it says are improved conditions. But critics say it’s impossible for Palestinians to get building permits and the demolition plan is against the residents’ will and meant to make room for the expansion of an Israeli colonies.

The encampment has become a rallying cry for Palestinians and focused attention on what critics say is their displacement by Israel in the context of colony expansion. European countries urged Israel last week to refrain from demolition and removal of the 180 or so residents.

The ruling appeared to clear the final obstacle in a case that has been in legal limbo for nearly a decade.

The village is in the 60 per cent of the West Bank known as Area C, which remains under exclusive Israeli occupation and is home to dozens of Israeli colonies. Israel places severe restrictions on Palestinian development there and home demolitions are not unusual. But the removal of an entire community would be extremely unusual.

As part of interim peace deals in the 1990s, the West Bank was carved up into autonomous and semi-autonomous Palestinian areas, known as Areas A and B, and Area C, which is home to some 400,000 Israeli colonists.

The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank and say that Area C, home to an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Palestinians, is crucial to the economic development of their future state.