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Bedouin families appeal to Merkel to help to block Israeli expulsion

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Bedouin families appeal to Merkel to help to block Israeli expulsion

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By Ori Lewis

KHAN AL-AHMAR, West Bank (Reuters) - Holding posters of Angela Merkel ahead of a scheduled visit to Israel by the German chancellor, Bedouin children appealed to her on Tuesday to help block Israeli plans to raze their hamlet in the occupied West Bank.

Khan al-Ahmar's 180 residents, backed by foreign activists who have gathered at the site, have been waiting for bulldozers to move in at any time after an Oct. 1 deadline from Israel for the villagers to demolish their own homes expired.

Palestinians say razing the Bedouin village's tents and tin and wood shacks is part of an Israeli plan to create an arc of Jewish settlements that would effectively cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank, areas captured by Israel in a 1967 war.

Israel, which has long sought to clear the Arab nomads from tracts of land between the settlements of Maale Adumim and Kfar Adumim, said Khan al-Ahmar was built without the required permits. Palestinians say such documents are impossible to obtain.

The United Nations, European Union and human rights groups have urged Israel not to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, citing the serious impact on the community and prospects for peace.

The expulsion plan includes relocation to an area about 12 km (seven miles) away next to a landfill. Earlier this month, Israel's Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for eviction after lengthy litigation.

"When I walk to school every day, I'm afraid my school will already have been demolished," said Muna Abu Dahouk, 12.

She and several other children carried posters of Merkel on which appeals for her help were scrawled.

The German leader is due in Israel on Wednesday for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a government-to-government meeting of Israeli and German ministers.

There was no word from Israel on Tuesday on when the village would be razed amid speculation by pro-Palestinian activists that the eviction would not be carried out until after Merkel leaves late on Thursday.

Next to the encampment, a brown lake of wastewater formed on Tuesday, spilloff from a nearby Jewish settlement. Palestinians called it a deliberate attempt to force the Bedouin to leave.

A settlement spokeswoman said the spillage was unintentional and result of a fault in the waste management system. She said a crew was working to repair it.

Most countries consider settlements built by Israel on land it captured in the 1967 Middle East War as illegal and say they reduce and fragment the territory Palestinians seek for a viable state. Israel disputes this.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Peter Graff)

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