Doomed vil­lage turns to Europe as last hope

The Star Malaysia - - World -

KHAN AL-AH­MAR ( West Bank): For the anx­ious Pales­tinian res­i­dents of Khan al-Ah­mar, there’s lit­tle left to do but wait.

Af­ter the West Bank ham­let lost its last le­gal pro­tec­tion against de­mo­li­tion late last week, Is­raeli forces could swoop in any day now to tear down the desert com­mu­nity’s few dozen shacks and an Ital­ian-funded school­house made from re­cy­cled tires.

Some hold out hope that Is­rael might be de­terred by an in­evitable in­ter­na­tional out­cry over raz­ing the com­mu­nity. Ma­jor Euro­pean coun­tries have warned that flat­ten­ing Khan al-Ah­mar poses a grave threat to the al­ready fad­ing prospects of a two-state so­lu­tion to the Is­raeli- Pales­tinian con­flict.

The seem­ingly out­sized in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion be­ing paid to the tiny com­mu­nity is linked to its strate­gic lo­ca­tion in the cen­tre of the West Bank. It’s an area deemed es­sen­tial for set­ting up a vi­able Pales­tinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, ar­eas Is­rael cap­tured in 1967.

Is­rael has por­trayed the bat­tle over Khan al-Ah­mar as a mere zon­ing dis­pute. Crit­ics of Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s poli­cies say the vil­lage has be­come a sym­bol for what they de­scribe as an on­go­ing dis­place­ment of Pales­tini­ans to make room for Is­raeli set­tle­ments.

With de­mo­li­tion now loom­ing, dozens of ac­tivists, in­clud­ing for- eign­ers, have been spend­ing nights in Khan al-Ah­mar to show sup­port. They sleep on mat­tresses spread out un­der green tarp cov­er­ing the front yard of the Ital­ian-funded school.

“We can­not pre­vent de­mo­li­tion,” said ac­tivist Mo­hammed Abu Hil­weh, 30, from Jerusalem, as he stretched out on a mat­tress on a re­cent evening.

“But we can re­sist, de­lay and when it hap­pens, we can re­build.”

Khan al-Ah­mar is lo­cated a few dozen me­tres from a four-lane high­way that runs east-west, ef­fec­tively slic­ing the West Bank in half at a nar­row waist and link­ing Jerusalem with the Jor­dan Val­ley.

The high­way is also flanked by sev­eral Is­raeli set­tle­ments, in­clud- ing Maaleh Adu­mim, the West Bank’s third largest.

A new set­tle­ment across the high­way from Maaleh Adu­mim, called E1 by Is­raeli plan­ners, would ef­fec­tively block the re­main­ing land link be­tween West Bank Pales­tini­ans and east Jerusalem, their hoped-for cap­i­tal. Khan al-Ah­mar sits just out­side the area mapped for E1, which un­til now had largely been frozen un­der US pres­sure.

Hanan Ashrawi, a se­nior Pales­tinian of­fi­cial, called the planned de­mo­li­tion a “bla­tant at­tempt” by Is­rael to sep­a­rate the Pales­tini­ans from Jerusalem.

“It is ab­so­lutely im­per­a­tive that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity in­ter­vene,” she said.

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