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THE Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar received a temporary reprieve yesterday when the Israeli security cabinet ordered its demolition be paused to allow for negotiations on an agreed plan for its residents.
The decision followed mass protests and international pressure over the planned destruction of the Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank to make way for a road to link the illegal Israeli settlements that surround it.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that the delay was only agreed in order to allow time for arrangements to be made for the removal of the villagers and that the destruction would go ahead.
Speaking alongside US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, he said: “Khan al-Ahmar will be evacuated. That’s the decision of the court, that’s our policy and it will be carried out.
“I have no intention of delaying indefinitely, unlike what the press is reporting, but for a limited and short period.”
Mr Netanyahu’s comments appeared to contradict an earlier statement from his office that suggested that the demolition had been delayed indefinitely.
He is under pressure both from the international community and from his right-wing Jewish Home coalition partners, who branded the decision “infuriating and outrageous.”
International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda warned Tel Aviv last week that the transferring of protected populations in an occupied area amounted to a war crime and said she was monitoring the situation closely, hinting at a potential prosecution.
Israel had initially planned the forced removal of the residents and offered to relocate them in the Palestinian town of Abu Dis, but the Bedouin community said they were neither wanted there nor had any provision to graze their livestock.
The villagers proposed a move to plots of land owned by the Palestinian village of Anata, an idea originally dismissed by Tel Aviv. The Israeli authorities have now agreed to enter discussions over the relocation.
Demonstrations to prevent the village’s destruction have been met with a violent response from Israeli security services, who used tasers and pepper spray in an assault on Friday.
Bulldozers moved into the village last week after residents resisted orders to leave the village by October 1.
The announcement of the delay received a cautious welcome, but the threat of demolition remains.
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