Only a court order stands between Khan al-Ahmar and the bulldozers. And if it goes, the West Bank will be split in two
Commuters speeding along the four-lane highway that connects Jerusalem to Jericho might not notice this tiny Bedouin village of fewer than 200 people tucked in the dip of two hills. Tents hoisted with chipped scrap-wood and sand-covered corrugated-iron shacks are home to once-nomadic families who settled after the Israeli army expelled them from the southern desert seven decades ago. Some residents work in nearby factories owned by Israeli settlers. Others herd sheep and goats on the scorching rocky terrain.
But Khan al-Ahmars modest appearance belies its significance to many Palestinians as the keystone of their struggle for statehood a community whose location is so strategic that, if they were removed, it might crumble hopes for a future country.
After years of resistance against Israeli demolition orders that say the makeshift village in the occupied West Bank is illegally built, last week brought what appeared to be final preparations for its destruction.
Security forces declared the area a closed military zone and blocked journalists and diplomats from entering. Bulldozers with military escorts rumbled in and began levelling the ground.
In the upper part of the village, Tahreer Abu Dahouk, a mother of four children all under 10, stood in her kitchen. A large blue plastic barrel held water, charred pots and pans hung on wooden hangers, and the roof was blackened by the soot from a fire pit. We sleep afraid; we wake up afraid. They are serious, she said as border police in grey uniforms patrolled outside.
On Wednesday, when Israeli forces first entered, they wounded 35 Palestinians and arrested others, according to the United Nations. One Israeli soldier was also reported injured. It was war here, said Abu Dahouk, who married into the village 14 years ago.