Israel has announced it was putting on hold the demolition of a Palestinian Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank for a “short, fixed period of time”.
In a statement made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday following a meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, he said Khan al-Ahmar will soon be “evacuated”.
“This is the decision of the court, this is our policy and it will be implemented,” Netanyahu told reporters.
“I don’t intend to postpone it until further notice contrary to what has been reported, but [make it happen] within a short, fixed period of time. The duration we will give to evacuate it in consent will be decided by the cabinet.”
Khan al-Ahmar, located northeast of occupied East Jerusalem, has been under threat of demolition for the past few months.
Netanyahu’s remarks came a day after after sources in the prime minister’s office told Israeli daily Haaretz that the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar will be delayed until further notice.
In a statement released by the office earlier on Sunday read: “The intention [of the postponement] is to give a chance to the negotiations and the offers we received from different bodies, including in recent days.”
The fate of Khan al-Ahmar has captured international attention for its years-long legal battle with Israeli authorities over its survival.
Israeli authorities set October 1 as the deadline for the residents to dismantle their shacks after the demolition was given a green light by an Israeli court last month, under the pretext that it had been built without a permit.
Israeli court rules to demolish Khan al-Ahmar village
But Palestinians say building permits are impossible to obtain, in contrast to the rapid expansion of Jewish-only Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.
The village’s location between two major Israeli settlements, Maale Adumim and Kfar Adumim, has been a thorn in the side of the Israeli government, which wants to expand the two in order to build a ring of settlements around East Jerusalem.
Palestinian leaders see East Jerusalem as their capital of a future Palestinian state.
Khan al-Ahmar’s destruction would also enable the Israeli government to effectively bisect the West Bank.
Rights advocates had said the forcible transfer of the village’s 180 residents would violate international law regarding occupied territory.
On Wednesday, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor warned that Israel’s planned “evacuation by force” of the village could constitute a war crime. Israel is a signatory of the Rome Statute of the ICC but it has not ratified the agreement.
Residents and activists had been protesting against the planned demolition of the village for more than 100 days.
Walid Assaf, head of the commission against the wall and settlements, said on Saturday residents of the village are fighting to cancel the demolition order entirely, not just to freeze the order, local media reported.
Last week, Israeli forces entered Khan al-Ahmar with heavy equipment and at least three bulldozers, levelling ground in preparation for its demolition. Several activtsts were injured and were briefly detained after resisting Israeli soldiers who were at the scene.
The Israeli government plans to relocate those displaced to either the vicinity of a sewage treatment facility near the Dead Sea or about 12km away from their homes, near the village of Abu Dis, which is near a landfill.