U.N. Calls on Israel to Cancel Bedouin Demolition

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -

The U.N.’s main human-rights body expressed concern on Tuesday over Israel’s expected demolition of a Bedouin village in the Shomron region, which critics say is being carried out to make room for more Jewish construction.

The Bedouin town of Khan al-Ahmar, outside Kfar Adumim, is set to be demolished at an unknown date after Israel’s High Court approved the move in May. Israel agreed to resettle the residents in an area seven miles away.

Israel says the structures that make up the encampment, which include an Italian-funded school, were illegally built and pose a threat to residents because of their proximity to a highway. But critics say it is nearly impossible to get a construction permit from Israel, and that the village’s demolition and the removal of its 180 or so residents is a ploy to clear the way for new Jewish housing.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Israel to abandon the demolition plans and said the destruction of private property by an occupying power violated international law.

“We call on the Israeli authorities not to proceed with the demolition of (Khan al Ahmar), to respect the rights of residents to remain on their land and have their status regularized,” the spokeswoman, Liz Throssell, said.

The region’s Arab Bedouin are a small, impoverished minority among the broader Palestinian population. Like many other Bedouin encampments, residents of Khan al-Ahmar live in corrugated shacks or tents, often without electricity or running water, and raise livestock.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon declined to comment.

The village is located in the 60 percent of Yehudah and Shomron known as Area C, which remains under exclusive Israeli control and is home to dozens of Israeli communities. Israel places severe restrictions on Palestinian development in Area C, and home demolitions there are not unusual.