Feb. 22 (UPI) — Israel’s government this week issued demolition orders for a Palestinian encampment near Jerusalem, giving residents just a few days to evacuate their homes.
Israel Defense Forces raided the settlement and imposed a military closure on dozens of structures in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar on Sunday — including tents, huts and a school.
Israeli forces stormed the village and even surrounded the 8-year-old school, the only one serving the Bedouin community in the area, preventing teachers and students from entering.
Palestinian Education Minister Sabri Saydam called the raid on the school a “systematic and abusive procedure.”
About 40 Palestinian-owned homes in the central West Bank community are targeted for demolition. Several other structures in the village were torn down by the IDF last month.
The area, Palestinian property that’s flanked by numerous residential settlements, has been sought by Israel for years. In 2014, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs identified Khan al-Ahmar as one of 46 settlements in the area that’s at risk of forced relocation by Israel.
Israeli officials maintain that the village was built illegally in the hotly disputed E1 Corridor, which physically links East Jerusalem and the Maale Adumim settlement.
In the past, such raids and orders followed by hearings have been precursors for demolition, The Times reported.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the policy liaison between Palestinian Gaza and West Bank territories and the Israeli government, did not initially give a definitive date to begin demolishing structures in Khan al-Ahmar. Witnesses said the residents were given until Thursday to leave.
Tel Aviv has wanted to demolish the encampment for years but has resisted due to U.S. and Western pressure. The Israeli government attempted in 2012 to move the Palestinian residents there to a new settlement, but they refused.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously supported demolition of the Khan al-Ahmar school, and the Israeli Supreme Court last year asked the government for further information regarding its plans. Officials have yet to furnish the information, though, some say due to opposition in the international community.
Some experts say Israel may now be ramping up settlement activity out of confidence that new U.S. President Donald Trump will support it. The notion that Tel Aviv would go forward with demolitions without the backing of its greatest ally, they say, simply wouldn’t make any sense.
“For eight years, there was tension and friction with the Obama administration. If we now start to fight with the Trump administration … people will really start to think that the leadership in the state of Israel is a bunch of nutcases,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told Israel Radio on Monday.
While addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last week, Trump said during a White House visit with Netanyahu that Israel should suspend settlement construction. That request has led the Israeli PM to postpone building a new village for residents of Amona, which was evacuated by the IDF last month.
“The most important thing is to reach understandings with the U.S. on all issues,” Liberman said.