JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has frozen plans to demolish a strategically located Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank that have drawn international concern, his office said Sunday, reports AFP.
“The intention is to give a chance to the negotiations and the offers we received from different bodies, including in recent days,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said about Khan al-Ahmar.But speaking later ahead of a meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Netanyahu appeared to play down the latest move and insisted that the village would still be cleared eventually.
“It’s our policy and it will take place,” he said. “I have no intention on delaying it indefinitely, but for a short, limited period.”
Netanyahu said the extent of the delay would be determined by the security cabinet, which was due to convene Sunday.
Israeli authorities say the small village, located east of Jerusalem along a road leading to the Dead Sea, was built illegally, and had given residents until the beginning of October to leave and demolish their structures.
The decision to evict the villagers followed years of legal battles and after negotiated attempts to agree on an alternative site for relocation failed.
The fate of Khan al-Ahmar has drawn international concern, with European countries calling on Israel not to move ahead with plans to demolish it.Israel’s supreme court on September 5 rejected a final appeal against the demolition, but following that ruling, there have been unofficial attempts to reach understandings, a lawyer representing the village’s residents told AFP.
“Our offers were based on what we told the court, that we’re willing to move a few hundred metres to the north,” Tawfiq Jabareen said. “Based on these proposals we’ve reached understandings.”
Meanwhile, Israel ordered the country’s goods and people border crossings with Gaza to be opened on Sunday, just four days after shuttering them following a Palestinian rocket attack that sparked retaliatory strikes, reports AFP.
The move followed efforts to prevent an escalation in ongoing violence that has raised fears of a new war between Israel and the Palestinian territory’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
“The decision comes after a decrease in the violent events in Gaza over the weekend and efforts Hamas made to restrain” demonstrators, a statement from Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s office read.
On Wednesday, Lieberman had ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and the Erez crossing for people, after a rocket from the Palestinian territory hit a home in southern Israel, prompting the Jewish state to strike 20 Hamas targets in Gaza.
Hamas disavowed the launch and said it was investigating the incident, as alarm over a potential broader conflict rose.