Israel's supreme court on Thursday rejected an appeal against an order by Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman to demolish the impoverished Bedouin village of Khan Al Ahmar in the West Bank, paving the way for the forced relocation of its 35 families.
The 3-0 ruling brings to a close a legal battle over the state's insistence that the Bedouin be moved because their shanties of wood and corrugated metal as well as the village school were built without permits on state land. The village is situated between the illegal settlements of Maale Adumim and Kfar Adumim along the main highway from Jerusalem to Jericho.
Israel plans to relocate the Bedouin to land near a rubbish tip in Abu Dis, a West Bank suburb of Jerusalem. Human rights activists say the planned levelling of Khan Al Ahmar is part of a larger effort to clear the area of Bedouin and facilitate permanent Israeli control and the expansion of settlements.
The Beduin moved to Khan Al Ahmar in 1953 when the area was under Jordanian control after they were expelled from Israel's Negev desert.
Justice Noam Solberg, himself a West Bank settler, wrote in his ruling that: "Our decision is according to the letter of the law. The letter of the law is that there is no legal justification for intervening in the defence minister's decision to implement the demolition orders for the illegal buildings in Khan Al Ahmar."
Eid Abu Khamis, a local leader, reacted to the verdict by saying: "They don't care about the people here."
Shlomo Lecker, the lawyer representing the village, said the verdict "takes away the absolute minimal protection the Bedouin communities received until recently from the court".
"By any standard of international humanitarian law, the verdict is an approval by the Israeli court of a crime against humanity," Mr Lecker said in a statement.
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Khan Al Ahmar is one of 12 Bedouin settlements in the area, with a total population of about 1,400 residents, that are threatened by demolition. The village's battle for survival was supported by European governments. The British consulate-general in Jerusalem visited Khan Al Ahmar last week and said in a video clip posted online that the planned demolition was a "matter of great concern for the UK and indeed for the European Union".
The Supreme Court verdict was delivered on the same day Mr Lieberman announced 2,500 new settlement units in the West Bank. All settlements are considered illegal under international law.