Tensions heightened Monday morning in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, as Israeli police forces entered the village with bulldozers, sparking confrontations with residents and local and foreign activists who attempted to prevent authorities from entering the village.
At least five people were treated for injuries by Palestinian medics, while four people were arrested.
The detainees were identified as Israeli activists Jonathan Pollak and Kobi Snitz, Palestinian activist Reyad Salahat, and Dutch activist Robin Licker. Both Pollak and Salahat were reportedly injured.
By Monday afternoon, Licker had posted on Facebook that he and the Israeli activists had been release, though Salahat remained in custody. Licker added that he was banned from going to Khan al-Ahmar for 15 days.
Hundreds of activists and journalists slept in Khan al-Ahmar — home to some 200 Bedouin Palestinians — overnight between Sunday and Monday in anticipation of the demolition, which locals ar expecting to take place at any moment.
Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of demolishing the village, despite appeals from residents, and gave the final greenlight for the demolition on September 5th. Occupants of the village had been given until October 1 to voluntarily leave their homes to the planned relocation site at Jabal West, which is located next to the Abu Dis garbage dump in the central occupied West Bank.
The residents of the village awoke on Monday to a massive pool of water formed in the valley below the village. Reports indicated that the pool was a result of a burst in a water pipe belonging to Israeli national water company Mekorot.
Sources told Mondoweiss that Palestinian activists had broken the pipe intentionally and closed off the tunnel downstream with wooden pallets and tin sheets in order to flood the pathway that Israeli authorities plan on using as an entrance when they demolish the village.
Israeli police and border police officer arrived in units to the village between 7 and 8am and began surveying the area.
“The Israelis were surprised to see the pool of water, and called in bulldozers to clear the pathway,” Palestinian activist Rateb Jbour, 55, told Mondoweiss.
“We tried to defend the village from the Israeli forces who escorted a bulldozer from the main road next to the village, to prevent them from getting in the village and clearing the water,” Jbour said.
“But they used another path from the top of the mountain, the one close to Kfar Adumim settlement, and they entered with lots of forces and two more bulldozers,” he said.
Several activists threw themselves in front of the bulldozers in attempts to stop them, at which point Israeli forces began violently removing people from the area.
“They started to attack us and the other international and Israeli activists and punch and arrest them, and then they eventually got in to clear the pathway,” Jbour said.
Israeli forces, some armed with handguns and tasers, were seen violently pushing and shoving elderly Palestinians, women, and journalists.
Witnesses added that Israeli forces prevented Palestinian ambulances from entering the village, forcing the medics to enter on foot in order to treat people who had been injured.
“Our message to the world, to the peace lovers and human rights supporters, is that you must stand up to support the people of Khan al-Ahmar, who are under attack every single day by the occupation and the settlers,” an impassioned Jbour told Mondoweiss.
“This is a new Nakba for the people here,” he said, referring to the residents of the village who belong to the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, who were forcibly expelled in 1948 from the ancestral lands in the Israeli Negev desert.
“Israel kicked them out in 1948, and now they are trying to kick these people out of their lands again,” Jbour said.
“But we give this message, that we will not leave this area, despite what the occupation is doing,” he continued. “We are standing here, against the war crimes the Israelis are committing on the land, and we are not leaving.”
Israel’s government has argued that Khan al-Ahmar — which is primarily built out of tin structures — was constructed without nearly impossible to obtain Israeli-issued building permits on so-called “state lands,” therefore rendering it “illegal” and subject to demolition.
Israel plans on demolishing the makeshift 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.
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.