+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

ICC prosecutor warns: Demolishing Khan al-Ahmar a 'war crime'

Fatou Bensouda says she won’t ‘hesitate to take appropriate action,’ should the West Bank village be demolished. British Prime Minister Theresa May says demolition will be a ‘major blow to two-state solution.’

Palestinian, foreign, and Israeli activists try to block an Israeli bulldozer preparing for the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, July 4, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian, foreign, and Israeli activists try to block an Israeli bulldozer preparing for the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, July 4, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda issued a stern warning to Israel officials on Wednesday, saying she will not “hesitate to take any appropriate action” should they demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar and forcibly transfer its residents.

Bensouda’s warning comes as Israeli authorities ramp up their attempts to destroy the village and remove its residents, who have lived in Khan al-Ahmar for over 40 years.

The ICC prosecutor also expressed concern about the continued violence at the Gaza-Israel border, several hours after a rocket fired from the Strip struck a home in the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva. In response, the Israeli Air Force struck 20 targets it said belonged to Hamas.

Bensouda’s full statement:

I have been following with concern the planned eviction of the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank.  Evacuation by force now appears imminent, and with it the prospects for further escalation and violence.

It bears recalling, as a general matter, that extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute.

I am similarly alarmed by the continued violence, perpetrated by actors on both sides, at the Gaza border with Israel.

As Prosecutor seized of the situation in Palestine, I therefore feel compelled to remind all parties that the situation remains under preliminary examination by my Office.

I continue to keep a close eye on the developments on the ground and will not hesitate to take any appropriate action, within the confines of the independent and impartial exercise of my mandate under the Rome Statute, with full respect for the principle of complementarity.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament on Wednesday that the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar would constitute a “major blow to the two-state solution,” urging the Israeli government not to follow through with its plans of displacing the village’s residents. May’s comments came in response to a query by MP Alistair Carmichael, in which he implored the prime minister to make it clear to Benjamin Netanyahu that “this is occupied territory, that these are refugees, protected people whose forcible removal…would constitute a war crime.”

Both Bensouda and May’s remarks come as Israeli authorities make preparations to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, following a High Court ruling last month that sealed the village’s fate. Earlier this week, Israeli security forces accompanied by bulldozers entered the outskirts of the village to begin leveling the ground in the run-up to the demolition. At least seven people were injured and four others detained on Monday, after trying to block the bulldozers from carrying out their work.

Israel plans to evict the residents and transfer them to a designated area adjacent to a garbage site near the town of Abu Dis in East Jerusalem.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Yeah, Right

      Jeffrey Wilens argues: “Demolishing an illegal set of structures is not a ‘war crime.’ ”

      Jeffrey, the forcible transfer of protected persons is the main issue here, and it is most definitely a war crime.

      Geneva Convention IV: “Nevertheless, the Occupying Power may undertake total or partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand. Such evacuations may not involve the displacement of protected persons outside the bounds of the occupied territory except when for material reasons it is impossible to avoid such displacement. Persons thus evacuated shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased.”

      The key takeaways: the only legal reason for this forcible transfer is if “the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand”, which very clearly does not apply here. So Israel has no legal standing to force these people to leave.

      Note also the “Persons thus evacuated shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased”

      There are no “hostilities” taking place at all. None. So not only is there no excuse to force them out, the occupier would actually be obliged to return them to this place immediately.

      Jeffrey also states: “The 180 residents have been offered land nearby although they are free to move elsewhere as well.”

      Israel can offer the Earth and the Moon and the Stars, but that does not alter this simple fact: Israel can not FORCE these residents to move, and if it does so then Israel has committed a war crime.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jeffrey Wilens

        This is like the power of eminent domain in the United States or anywhere else. People are forced to move (with compensation) all the time in many countries. It’s not a war crime and the Geneva convention does not apply to this circumstance. What you cited refers to transferring people from inside the “occupied territory” to outside the territory. That’s not what is happening. They are being moved a very short distance and still in the West Bank.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Yeah, Right

      Jeffrey says: “This is like the power of eminent domain in the United States or anywhere else.”

      No, what Israeli is attempting is nothing like what the US government does inside the United States of America.

      Eminent Domain is when the sovereign asserts that its powers trumps the private property rights of a landowner to his land.

      A moment’s thought will tell you that Eminent Domain applies inside the United States because the US government is the sovereign power (i.e. the US government can not resort to “eminent domain” anywhere outside the United States of America, any more than a foreign power can claim that “eminent domain” gives it the right to steal some part of the USA).

      Hardly a controversial statement, I know, but stick with me.

      So the key to Eminent Domain is “sovereignty”, and Israel is not the sovereign power in the West Bank. It is merely the occupying power.

      Eminent Domain is therefore not available to Israel in the West Bank, which is why what Israel is attempting is a war crime i.e. Israel’s authority inside the West Bank are governed the International Humanitarian Law (the Rules of War), not by dinky notions of domestic legislation.

      Sorry, Jeffrey, but you simply do not know what you are talking about.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Yeah, Right

      I would like everyone to notice how Jeffrey shoots himself in the foot within the space of three sentences.

      Jeffrey: “People are forced to move (with compensation) all the time in many countries.”

      Note that Jeffrey is claiming that this is happening “in” a “country” e.g. Israel is just doing what the US Government does inside the USA, or the UK government does inside the UK, etc. etc.

      Jeffrey: “It’s not a war crime and the Geneva convention does not apply to this circumstance.”

      The Geneva Conventions do not apply inside your own country. Correct.
      But then comes the Jeffrey-howler……

      Jeffrey: “What “yeah right” cited refers to transferring people from inside the “occupied territory” to outside the territory.”

      Oh dear, oh dear. My friend Jeffrey has just admitted that the West Bank is not “in Israel”, but is instead an Israeli-occupied territory.

      The moment he admits this is the exact instant that he shoots his own argument down in flames…..

      Reply to Comment
    4. Yeah, Right

      Jeffrey: “What “yeah right” cited refers to transferring people from inside the “occupied territory” to outside the territory. That’s not what is happening. They are being moved a very short distance and still in the West Bank.”

      Jeffrey is very much mistaken. He has so misrepresented the quote that it is clear he has not read it or, if he has, he did not understand it.

      Read it again, Jeff:
      “Nevertheless, the Occupying Power may undertake total or partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand. Such evacuations may not involve the displacement of protected persons outside the bounds of the occupied territory except when for material reasons it is impossible to avoid such displacement. Persons thus evacuated shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased.”

      It clearly says that an evacuation OUTSIDE the occupied territory is prohibited unless absolutely unavoidable.

      It clearly says that an evacuation INSIDE the occupied territory is permissible ONLY for “the security of the population or imperative military reasons” and that this evacuation must be reversed “as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased”.

      You are therefore incorrect to claim that Geneva Convention IV is silent on what Israel is doing.

      In reality the section that I quoted above is screaming out that an occupier is committing a war crime when it displaces people if:
      a) there is no imperative military reason for that displacement, and
      b) the occupier intends that this displacement be permanent.

      That’s a war crime.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Excellent. Very clear. Thank you. What Wilens is doing here with his blithe dismissal is rather typical of many a casual disinformation spreader in regards to the occupation. And they always seem to think people cannot read. But it so happens that he’s met up here with someone not to be trifled with in regards to international law.

        Reply to Comment
        • Yeah, Right

          Ben, Jeffrey is doing what he always does – which is to play a very crude and clumsy shell game. In this case the pea is called “sovereignty”, and he plays now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t with that pea.

          When he talks about “eminent domain” then the pea is there for all to see, because his argument depends upon it.

          When he talks about what Israel is doing in the West Bank then – hey, presto – that pea has just disappeared, and Jeffrey is hoping against hope that nobody notices its disappearance.

          He does it so often that he reveals himself to be a one-trick-pony.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            And encapsulated in Jeffrey’s one trick is the having-it-both-ways shell game Israel has been playing in the occupied territories for 50 years.

            Reply to Comment