Israels Supreme Court has temporarily blocked the demolition of a Palestinian Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank, a lawyer for residents said Friday, following growing international concerns over the move.
The temporary injunction issued on Thursday night stops the Israeli authorities razing Khan al-Ahmar until at least July 11 to give the state time to respond, attorney Shlomo Lecker told AFP.
It follows a new petition by residents who submitted a planning application to rebuild the village at its present location.
There has been strong international pressure on Israel to reverse its plans to raze Khan al-Ahmar, which the Israeli authorities say was built illegally. In May the Supreme Court rejected a final appeal against its demolition.
Activists say the villagers had little alternative but to build without Israeli construction permits that are almost never issued to Palestinians in the parts of the West Bank where Israel has full control over civilian affairs.
Israeli rights activist Angela Godfrey-Goldstein said she believed that diplomatic pressure played a role in the stay of execution.
Diplomats from Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the European Union tried Thursday to visit the school at Khan al-Ahmar, which is funded by several European countries, but they were turned back at the village entrance.
The Consul General of France in Jerusalem, Pierre Cochard, told journalists at the scene that demolishing the village of 173 residents would be a violation of the Geneva convention which lays out the obligations of an occupying power toward those under its control.
It would also significantly complicate the search for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he added.
Police said the area had been declared a closed military zone.
The army had said on Thursday that the process of enforcing eviction and demolition orders was under way, but did give a date when the buildings would be razed.
The UN's humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Jamie McGoldrick, has condemned the move.
"These demolitions are particularly outrageous because they target communities who already live in extremely difficult conditions, with high levels of humanitarian needs," he said in a statement on Thursday.
Khan al-Ahmar is located near several major Israeli settlements and close to a highway leading to the Dead Sea.
It is made up mainly of makeshift structures of tin and wood, as is generally the case with Bedouin villages in the region.
Activists are concerned that continued Israeli settlement construction in the area could effectively divide the West Bank in two.