Israel Dismantles Alternative Housing Site Meant for Khan al-Ahmar Evacuees

Following the freeze on evacuation, removal of temporary structures signals that villagers will not be forced to leave anytime soon

Personnel from the Defense Ministry and the IDF's Civil Administration dismantling temporary structures in the West Bank village of Azzariyeh, October 23, 2018.
Emil Salman

Personnel from the Defense Ministry and the army's Civil Administration in the West Bank began dismantling temporary structures on Tuesday at the site slated to house residents from the village of Khan al-Ahmar, after its planned evacuation. The work began after a freeze was put into effect on Saturday, as reported in Haaretz, on the evacuation of the contested Bedouin locale, due to residents' objections to moving to the new site, located just east of Jerusalem in Azzariyeh.

Dismantlement began following several weeks of building at Azzariyeh. Because the process of rebuilding them – if it is ordered – would also take time, this suggests that the government will not remove the Khan al-Ahmar villagers any time soon, despite government declarations that postponement of the evacuation will be brief, pending efforts to convince the residents to leave of their own free will.

Personnel from the Defense Ministry and the IDF's Civil Administration dismantling temporary structures in the West Bank village of Azzariyeh, October 23, 2018.
Emil Salman

The Azzariyeh site includes a number of mobile homes meant to serve as an alternative to the “tire school” that exists today in Khan al-Ahmar, along with a number of tents, each of them 90 square meters, which Civil Administration staff have now taken down.

A visit to the site on Tuesday morning showed that the Defense Ministry had begun removal of the mobile homes, which had been guarded by soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces Etzion regional brigade. The Civil Administration said the purpose of dismantling the mobile homes was to free up the troops for other missions.

A worker dismantles a fence in in the West Bank village of Azzariyeh, October 23, 2018.
Emil Salman

In the past, the state – including to the High Court of Justice - promised that it would not evacuate Khan al-Ahmar before alternative structures were built so that the community's youngsters could continue attending school. The High Court insisted on ensuring that the villagers would not be moved if a new building for the school was not erected.

The freeze on the evacuation was approved this week by the security cabinet. Officially, the move was postponed because of the desire to reach an agreed-upon arrangement following talks with the villagers. One of the possibilities raised was to move them to a different site, just a few hundred meters from their present location, but the sides have yet to reach an agreement.

In recent weeks, as security forces prepared for a forced evacuation, major diplomatic pressure was exerted on Israel to abandon its plan, from the German government as well as from the chief prosecutor of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Personnel from the Defense Ministry and the IDF's Civil Administration dismantling temporary structures in the West Bank village of Azzariyeh, October 23, 2018.
Emil Salman