Israeli troops destroyed several shacks placed by protestors near the Palestinian village of Khan al Ahmar, set to be demolished, despite international criticism, in the coming days.
Eyewitnesses said Israeli forces arrived at the village in the illegally occupied West Bank before sunrise on Thursday and began taking down the newly built protest huts, without touching the Bedouin encampment, the fate of which has become a focus of Palestinian protests and international concern.
The soldiers took away five caravans which had been pitched by activists campaigning against the village's demolition.
The army blocked off access to the village, and there were no clashes during the operation, according to the AFP news agency.
The Israeli defence ministry body which oversees the Palestinian territories said the five huts had been pitched illegally over the past few days.
"The erection of these structures was advanced by representatives of the Palestinian Authority in protest and defiance of the decision of the [Israeli] High Court of Justice, and in opposition to the enforcement of Israeli law in Area C," COGAT said, referring to the 61 percent of the West Bank where the army exercises full civil as well as military authority.
On September 5, Israel's supreme court upheld an order to raze the village because it was built without the proper permits.
Palestinians say it is virtually impossible for them to obtain Israeli permits to build in Area C of the West Bank, where Khan al-Ahmar is situated.
A temporary stay against the village's demolition expired on Wednesday, meaning that the army now starts implementing the court order as and when they see fit.
Palestinians stand in front of Israeli army trucks after it removed shacks built to oppose Khan al Ahmar's demolition (Reuters)
On Monday, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain issued a renewed call for Israel not to demolish the village, warning of the consequences for residents as well as "the prospects of the two-state solution".
Khan al-Ahmar lies in a strategic area east of Jerusalem near several major Israeli settlements close to a highway to the Dead Sea between the Wast Bank and Jordan.
There have been repeated warnings that persistent Israeli settlement expansion in the area could effectively cut the West Bank in two, further damaging the prospects for a viable Palestinian state.
Palestinians say the demolition is part of an Israeli push to create an arc of settlements that would effectively cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and which the Palestinians seek for an independent state.
Last week, Israel's Supreme Court rejected petitions to prevent the move, siding with the authorities who say the village was built without required permits. Palestinians say such documents are impossible to obtain.
Israeli authorities, however, offered alternative sites for Khan al-Ahmar residents, but villagers say the first was near a rubbish dump and the latest close to a sewage treatment plant.