Waiting for Israeli bulldozers, Bedouin villagers stand their ground
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Khan al-Ahmar, a village of roughly 200 people in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is at risk of being demolished by Israeli bulldozers at any time, despite international criticism and fierce resistance from its inhabitants.
<span><span><span lang="EN-US"><span><span>Click on the player above to watch the report from Khan al-Ahmar by FRANCE 24’s Irris Makler, Antoine Mariotti and Cécile Galluccio.</span></span></span></span></span>
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 the 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. But 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 foreigners, 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.
Recent visitors included a delegation of three French senators, accompanied by the Consul-General of France in Jerusalem, who voiced their disagreement with the Israeli court ruling that the village was built illegally.
“They say the buildings are illegal everywhere except in the places where they’ve set up Jewish settlements, so that's not true,” said Senator Gilbert Roger, the deputy head of the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee and head of the chamber's France-Palestine Group. “What about illegal Jewish building? Israel also has to account for that!”
Among the activists campaigning to save the village is French-American law professor Frank Romano, who was arrested on Friday and threatened with deportation. Romano’s lawyer said Monday a court had ordered his release, and that the 66-year-old professor had since returned to the village.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)