KHAN AL-AHMAR (WEST BANK): A British minister today made a last-gasp call to Israel not to raze a Palestinian Bedouin village, after the Israeli supreme court rejected a final appeal against its demolition.
The court last week backed the demolition of the village of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank, located close to several Israeli settlements east of Jerusalem.
Residents said they expected the demolition of the village, which is home to 180 people and includes a school, to happen in the coming weeks.
Alistair Burt, British minister of state for the Middle East, visited the village and called on the Israeli government to show restraint.
"We are very concerned about the impact of the court case last week and the imminent demolition," he told AFP during the visit. He warned that any forced relocation "could constitute forcible transfer of people as far as the United Nations is concerned."
Forcible transfer is considered a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
Burt said they were still seeking to find an alternative to the demolition but stopped short of threatening any direct measures against the Israeli government.
"I will be wanting to seek to persuade Israeli authorities."
The Israeli supreme court ruled the village was built without the relevant building permits. Such permits are nearly impossible to obtain for Palestinians in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank.
Israel says it has offered the residents an alternative location.
Eid Abu Khamis, a spokesman for the village, told AFP he had heard messages of support from Western governments for many years but had seen little practical steps to stop Israel.
He told Burt he would like to see action, rather than condemnation.
Separately, Israel approved the construction of nearly 2,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank, including 90 within a kilometre of Khan al-Ahmar, the Peace Now settlement watchdog said.
Peace Now called the approvals near the village "the embodiment of exploitation and evil". All settlements are considered illegal under international law.