As the destruction of their homes grows more imminent, the villagers of Khan al-Ahmar have appealed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will be visiting Israel this week, to stop the demolitions.
On Tuesday, children from the village were photographed holding posters of Merkel alongside the words “Save our school” and “Save Khan al Ahmar.”
Merkel is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Wednesday for a two-day visit during which time she will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to Israeli media, Merkel’s visit will consist of visits to the Israel Museum along with Netanyahu and a technological innovation exhibition of six Israeli companies. She will also receive an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Haifa at Springer Auditorium.
Though Merkel is not scheduled to visit the occupied Palestinian territory or visit with any leaders, residents of Khan al-Ahmar and local activists have speculated that Israel will wait to demolish the village until after her visit to Israel to avoid any backlash from the German premier.
Late last month, Israeli security forces handed out letters telling Khan al-Ahmar’s residents to voluntarily demolish their own homes by Oct. 1 or Israeli authorities would enforce the demolition orders.
In the notices, Israeli forces said that “any citizen who wishes to receive assistance in demolishing or transporting [property] is welcome to contact the Jerusalem District Coordination and Liaison Office.”
The state plans on forcibly transferring the villagers to a site 12km away called “Jabal West,” which is located adjacent to the Abu Dis landfill. The villagers argue that, not only does forcible transfer constitute as a war crime, but relocating them to a site permanent structures and little land would jeopardize their lifestyle as shepherds.
Earlier in September, Israel’s High Court gave the final greenlight to security forces to demolish the village, which is home to some 200 Bedouin Palestinians, despite widespread outcry from the local and international community.
In the weeks since, local and international activists have been increasing their presence in the village, with many spending nights there, in hopes that their presence will help prevent the demolition.
Khan al-Ahmar, which is built of mostly tents and tin structures, sits in the “E1 area” of the central occupied West Bank, directly in the path of the West Bank settlements — Kfar Adumim and Maale Adumim — that Israel hopes to annex and connect with occupied East Jerusalem.
The Israeli government has argued that Khan al-Ahmar was constructed without Israeli issued- building permits — which are nearly impossible to obtain — on so-called “state lands,” therefore rendering it “illegal” and subject to demolition.
The villagers, however, argue that they have existed in the area for decades, and the borderlines of Area C — where Palestinian construction is completely prohibited by Israel — were instead imposed on them after the signing of the Oslo Accords.
Israel plans on demolishing the homes, agricultural structures, and school in Khan al-Ahmar in order to build hundreds of settlement units on the village lands, eventually linking Kfar Adumim and Maale Adumim with East Jerusalem — a move that critics say would effectively split the West Bank in half and make a future contiguous Palestinian state impossible.
In his address last week to the UN General Assembly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas criticized Israel’s plans to demolish the village, asking the assembly, “Do you agree to this? Do you condone this?”