ICC Prosecutor Warns Israeli Demolition of Bedouin Village Could Be War Crime

Court won't hesitate to take action if needed, Fatou Bensouda says

Israel forces detain activists in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar that Israel plans to demolish, in the West Bank October 15, 2018.
REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor issued a warning on Wednesday that if Israel goes ahead and destroys a Palestinian Bedouin village in the West Bank it could constitute a war crime.

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Israel's Supreme Court recently rejected a final appeal against plans to demolish the village, Khan al-Ahmar.

In a statement, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said "evacuation by force now appears imminent."

Bensouda added that the "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.   

Israel says Khan al-Ahmar was built illegally and has offered to resettle its residents a few miles away. Palestinians and other critics say the demolition aims to displace Palestinians in favor of Israeli settlement expansion.

The European Parliament passed a resolution last month calling the decision to demolish and transfer Khan al-Ahmar a breach of international humanitarian law.

The resolution also demands compensation from Israel for the destruction of European Union-funded infrastructure found in the village.

The resolution warns Israeli authorities of the decision's repercussions, citing the Fourth Geneva Convention, wherein it is stated that "forcible transfer of an occupied territory, unless the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand," is prohibited and constitutes a grave breach of international humanitarian law.