Israeli high court defers evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar for six months

Days of Palestine – Jerusalem – The Israeli high court of justice on Wednesday decided to postpone a hearing on a Jewish group’s petition to evacuate the east Jerusalem village of Khan al-Ahmar for six months.

According to Haaretz website, the court criticized the Israeli government for stalling on its decision regarding the demolition of the Bedouin village for more than a decade and gave it until March 6, 2022 to make up its mind regarding the matter.

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“The state is not consistent in its arguments and does not follow through with its statements,” the court said. “There is no doubt the day nears when we can no longer come to terms with the petition’s inconclusiveness… It cannot be stretched to infinity.”

“We expect that by then, we shall be presented with a clear decision, after exploring all options,” the court’s judge added.

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Earlier this month, the high court called the request to postpone the hearing “embarrassing,” ruling that they would delay the hearing by only two months, and saying they would not approve any further delays.

The Israeli government justified its call for postponement based on current diplomatic and security complications.

The petition for the demolition of the Palestinian village was filed by the right-wing NGO Regavim, requesting that the government set a date for the village’s evacuation. The petition was already approved by the court two years ago.

Regavim responded to the high court’s ruling Wednesday, charging that the government’s procrastination is “part of the problem.”

“Procrastination will not conceal a simple demand: the state of Israel must fight the Palestinian takeover in [the West Bank and Jerusalem],” Regavim chief Meir Deutsch said.

The human rights group Friends of the Jahhalin also responded, saying “It is a pity that the court granted another extension and did not outright reject the petition that violates the values of equality. It is time to find a fair and agreed-upon solution. A solution for the benefit of the Bedouin.”

Wednesday’s high court decision marks the sixth round of petitions regarding the evacuation of the village, beginning in 2009 when the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) issued demolition orders against structures in the village. Since then, petitions have been submitted to the court by various Israeli parties seeking to enforce the demolitions, as well as by residents calling for their annulment. The high court routinely rejects these petitions waiting for the government, which decides on eviction matters, to give a clear order in this regard.

In September 2018, the European Parliament warned Israel that demolishing Khan al-Ahmar and displacing its residents would be a violation of the international humanitarian law under the Geneva Convention.

Former Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu had repeatedly pledged to evacuate the village. In an interview to TV Channel 12 a year and a half ago, he said that the evacuation would take place “very soon.”  Last year during the Israeli political crisis, the IOA told the court that the evacuation would be postponed until a new government was formed.

The residents of Khan al-Ahmar, known as al-Jahhalin Bedouins, are refugees from the Negev desert who have lived in this area of south Jerusalem since their displacement by the Israeli occupation army in 1967.

Throughout the years, Israeli governments have refused to recognize al-Jahhalin Bedouin communities or grant them building permits.

(Source / 30.09.2021)

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