Defense Minister: AG Behind Request to Freeze Expulsion of Bedouin Villagers

Avigdor Lieberman says Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit urged final effort to get Khan al-Ahmar residents to voluntarily depart because it was 'legally important'

Palestinian schoolgirls make their way to their school in the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, September 13, 2018.

Israel's decision to suspend the evacuation of the West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar came after Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit asked the government to first exhaust all attempts at negotiating with residents, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday.

Lieberman said that Mendeblit had told him to make a final attempt at negotiations for residents to depart voluntarily because it was "legally important."

The decision came days after International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Benseda warned that forcible evacuation could constitute a war crime and suggested that legal action would be taken.

Bensouda noted that "extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes" under the Rome Statute treaty that established the ICC.

She further said that her office was conducting a preliminary probe into the matter. "I will not hesitate to take any appropriate action within the framework of my authority according to the Rome Statute," she said.