By Ali Sawafta
KHAN AL-AHMAR, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian protests broke out on Wednesday at a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank facing Israeli demolition in what rights groups have condemned as a bid to expand Jewish settlement.
Israel moved three bulldozers to the village, Khan al-Ahmar, earlier in the day though demolition had yet to begin, after the military left a land confiscation notice there on Tuesday.
Around 180 Bedouin, raising sheep and goats, live in tin and wood shacks in Khan al-Ahmar. It is situated between a major Israeli settlement, Maale Adumim near Jerusalem, and a smaller one to the northeast, Kfar Adumim.
Khan al-Ahmar was built without Israeli permits, which Palestinians say are impossible to obtain. Israel has long sought to clear Bedouin from the area between the two settlements, and the Supreme Court approved the demolition in May.
Removing the Bedouin, human rights groups say, would create a bigger settlement pocket near Jerusalem and make it more difficult for Palestinians to achieve territorial contiguity in the West Bank, a territory they seek along with the Gaza Strip for a future state.
At Khan al-Ahmar, several dozen Palestinians scuffled with Israeli police, who punched several of the men they dragged away. A Palestinian ambulance service said 35 protesters were hurt and four of them were taken to hospital. Police said two people were arrested.
"I was born here and will not move anywhere else," said Feisal Abu Dahok, 45. "If they destroy the village, we will build it again here or nearby."
Israel said it plans to relocate the residents to an area about 12 kilometres (seven miles) away, near the Palestinian village of Abu Dis.
The new site is adjacent to a landfill and rights advocates say that a forcible transfer of the residents would violate international law applying to occupied territory.
At a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the U.N. human rights office expressed concern at reports of impending demolition.
"For more than a decade people in the Khan al-Ahmar community ... have resisted efforts to move them to make way for settlement expansion," the spokeswoman, Liz Throssell, said.
She said "international humanitarian law prohibits the destruction or confiscation of private property by the occupying power", a reference to Israel, which captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war.
Most countries regard settlements Israel has built in the West Bank as illegal. Israel disputes this.
Khan al-Ahmar's residents belong to the Jahalin tribe of Bedouin who were expelled from southern Israel by the military in the 1950s.
(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem)