JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday postponed the forced eviction of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank, a government official said.
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.
“We will stay alert and be ready to face the raid until news (of the delay) is confirmed,” said Walid Assaf, a Palestinian Authority minister who is in charge of the settlements file.
The expulsion plan had included relocation to an area about 12 km (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.
On Oct. 17 the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, said in a statement that eviction and demolition of the Khan al-Ahmar could constitute a war crime and the United Nations, European Union and rights groups have urged Israel not to raze the village, citing the impact on its community and prospects for peace.
Israel, which has long sought to clear the Arab nomads from tracts of land between the settlements of Maale Adumim and Kfar Adumim, said Khan al-Ahmar was built without the required permits. Palestinians say such documents are impossible to obtain.
The Palestinians say razing the village’s tents and tin shacks is part of an Israeli plan to create an arc of Jewish settlements that would effectively cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank, areas captured by Israel in a 1967 war.
Most countries consider settlements built by Israel on land it captured in 1967 as illegal and say they reduce and fragment the territory Palestinians seek for a viable state. Israel disputes this.
Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Adrian Croft and Alistair Bell