The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has called for the international community to intervene and stop an Israeli project aimed at the forcibly displacing thousands of Palestinian Bedouin in the occupied West Bank.
In a press statement issued on Sunday, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl stressed that: “If such a plan were implemented this would not only give rise to concerns that it amounts to a ‘forcible transfer’ in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” but that “it might also make way for further Israeli illegal settlement expansion, further compromising the viability of a two state solution.”
“I urge the Israeli authorities not to proceed with the transfer of these communities and I also urge the donor and state community to take a firm stand against it,” he added.
The majority of Bedouin threatened by the plan are registered with UNRWA as refugees. “The humanitarian impact of the planned transfer could be immense,” Krähenbühl warned.
According to a reporter at Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, Israel now seeks to displace thousands of Bedouin from the central West Bank to Jericho near the Jordanian border.
The newspaper noted that the original plan aimed only to relocate one tribe, but it has since been extended to include displacing more than about 12,500 Bedouin from the Jahalin, Ka’abneh and Rashaida tribes, without conducting any dialogue with them as has been requested by the Israeli Supreme Court.
UNRWA pointed out that some of the targeted Bedouin live in the E1 area and in the vicinity of the Maale Adumim settlement near Jerusalem, and that these are the same areas that Israel has chosen to build new illegal settlements.
The proposed Israeli project in the E1 area, which aims to connect Jerusalem with the Maale Adumim settlement, has raised considerable controversy because it would divide the occupied West Bank in half and isolate it from Jerusalem, thus threatening the viability of any independent Palestinian state.