Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered Motzoei Shabbos that the scheduled demolition of the illegal Khan al-Ahmar outpost be postponed following pressure from the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
The fate of Khan al-Ahmar has drawn international concern after Israel said it planned to raze the village, a ramshackle camp housing 180 residents.
Its residents, backed by foreign activists who have gathered at the site, have been waiting for bulldozers to move in at any time after an Oct. 1 deadline from Israel for the villagers to demolish their own homes expired.
The expulsion plan had included relocation to an area about seven miles away next to a landfill.
But an official in Netanyahu’s office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said an alternative relocation plan was being looked at, in coordination with the Palestinian Authority.
“The goal is to fully exhaust negotiations and [examine] proposed plans submitted by various agents, including [those received] in the past few days,” the official said.
Israel, which has long sought to clear the Arab nomads from tracts of land between the settlements of Maaleh Adumim and Kfar Adumim, said Khan al-Ahmar was built without the required permits. Palestinians say such documents are impossible to obtain.
The United Nations, European Union and human rights groups have urged Israel not to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, citing the impact on the community and prospects for peace.
Last week, International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that Israel can be prosecuted for war crimes if it goes ahead with the demolition. “Extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes,” she said.
Bensouda warned that “I will not hesitate to take any appropriate action within the framework of my authority according to the Rome Statute” enabling the ICC to prosecute world leaders.
Israeli security forces had been preparing for the planned demolition, which was set to commence just hours before the court intervened.