The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda yesterday warned Israel against demolishing the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar and displacing its residents saying the action could constitute a “war crime”.
“Extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute,” Bensouda said in a statement.
“I continue to keep a close eye on the developments on the ground and will not hesitate to take any appropriate action,” she added.
Meanwhile, clashes broke out on Wednesday between dozens of Palestinian youth and foreign solidarity activists in the village of Al-Khan Al-Ahmar and the Israeli army forces who stormed the village.
Khan Al-Ahmar was slated for demolition on 1 October but as yet remains standing. On Thursday, the Israeli army was deployed in large numbers around the village, with local sources saying more than 30 battalions were stationed at the gates and roads leading to the village. The leadership of the Israeli civil administration, the Israeli body which administers the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), were also seen on a nearby hilltop with maps in their hands.
Both the Israeli government and the illegal settlers in the area surrounding Khan Al-Ahmar have worked to pressure the village’s inhabitants to leave by making their living conditions unbearable. According to Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, if successful “this would violate the prohibition on forcible transfer set out in international humanitarian law. Such a violation constitutes a war crime”. B’Tselem adds that “not only the policymakers […] will bear personal liability for the commission of this crime [but] those who paved the legal road bear equal liability.”
Khan Al-Ahmar is home to some 173 Al-Jahhalin Bedouins who are refugees from the Negev desert. They have lived in the area east of Jerusalem since their displacement by the Israeli army in 1967. Israel has refused to recognise Al-Jahhalin Bedouin communities or grant them building permits, a strategy often used by Israel to term any Bedouin home illegal.