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Israeli settlers demand demolition of

Palestinian village

Residents of Susiya have endured a series of demolitions,
Anne PaqActiveStills

Charlotte Silver Rights and Accountability 21 July 2015

Throughout Ramadan, most Palestinians look forward to Eid al-Fitr, the
feast that marks the end of a month of fasting. But the residents of Susiya in the South
Hebron Hills have dreaded the month’s conclusion: Israel has stated that after
Ramadan, it would begin to demolish the village.
Since the Israeli high court struck down the residents’ petition to prohibit further

demolitions in May, the village has been at risk of total destruction.
About half of the village’s structures are slated for demolition at any moment. This half
consists of 10 residential homes, one clinic, eight animal shelters and 12 other
structures.
The residents of Susiya — home to 340 people — expect these structures to be
demolished before the high court begins an appeal hearing, which is scheduled for 3
August.
According to media reports, villagers met Israeli officials overseeing the West Bank’s
military occupation last week to try to reach an agreement under which the residents
would be relocated without forced demolitions. During the meeting, the military
officials reportedly suggested they were under pressure from Israeli settlers to relocate
the villagers.
Exceptional outrage
The impending demolition of Susiya has garnered unusual resistance from Israel’s
staunchest ally, the United States. John Kirby, the US State Department
spokesperson described the proposed demolitions as “harmful and provocative” and
stated “we strongly urge the Israeli authorities to refrain from carrying out any
demolitions in the village.”
Kirby also said “we are concerned that the demolitions … would set a damaging
standard for displacement and land confiscation.”
Susiya is in the 60 percent of the West Bank designated as “Area C” under the 1993
Oslo accords. This means it is under full Israeli administrative and military control.
Destruction and demolition in Area C, as in the rest of the occupied West Bank
including East Jerusalem, is not just a provocative move. It is one that violates
international law, which prohibits the forced displacement or transfer of civilians and
the destruction of private property.
Nonetheless, the Israeli military routinely carries out demolitions in Area C, displacing
families at a high rate.
The European Union has also condemned the pending evictions. In June,
representatives from all 28 EU member states arrived in the village to show
their collective opposition to Israel’s plan.
But on 19 July, Nasser Nawajeh, a resident of the village and a fieldworker for the
Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, wrote to the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica

Mogherini, challenging the Union to suspend trade agreements with Israel until it
upholds international law. Under a legally-binding “association agreement” that came
into effect in 2000, the EU may only deepen its relationship with Israel if human rights
are respected.
Record of displacement
Since the mid 1980s, the people of Susiya have been repeatedly displaced.
In 1986, the original location of the village was declared an “archeological site” and the
land confiscated for “public purposes,” forcing the residents to move to a nearby area.
In 2001, this village was destroyed by the Israeli army in an act of collective
punishment following the murder of a man from an Israeli settlement, also named
Susiya.
Following 2001, the Civil Administration — the name Israel gives to the body
administering its military occupation of the West Bank — would regularly issue
demolition orders for the village’s temporary structures. Built without permits, those
structures were erected to take care of their livestock and shelter the residents.
During this same period, the villagers’ access to their land was significantly restricted
by a proliferation of Israeli “outposts” — settlements that are illegal even according to
Israeli law.
Through the threat of violence, settlers have prevented the residents from accessing
around 300 hectares (1 square mile) of land, that includes numerous water cisterns.
Settlers have been documented cutting down olive trees, stealing crops and damaging
property.
Since 2007, the Palestinian residents of Susiya have lodged 126 complaints with the
Israeli police in Hebron. Nearly all have been closed without any charges being
brought.
In 2013, the Civil Administration finally rejected a master plan that was proposed by
the organization Rabbis for Human Rights. The occupation authority stated in its
explanation for rejecting the proposed plan that it intended to transfer the people of
Susiya to Yatta, another West Bank village.
Yatta is in Area A, which is nominally under the Palestinian Authority’s control.
The Civil Administration argued that transferring the Susiya villagers to Yatta would
be beneficial to Susiya’s residents:

We see the current [master] plan as yet another attempt to keep a poor,
downtrodden population from advancing; from choosing between partial
income and other resources; it is an attempt to prevent the Palestinian
woman from breaking the cycle of poverty and depriving her of educational
and professional opportunities. Similarly, by sentencing the Palestinian child
to life in a small, stultified village with no means for development, the plan
keeps the child from being aware of all the opportunities available to any
other person. It is our recommendation that the plan be rejected out of hand.
Following the Civil Administration’s rejection of the master plan, Rabbis for Human
Rights petitioned the Israeli high court to overturn the decision.
But in May, the court sided with the occupation authorities, chastising Susiya’s
residents for “taking the law into their own hands” and continuing to build without
permits. That verdict overlooked how it is Israeli settlers and the Israeli authorities
that are violating international law, not the indigenous Palestinians.
Israel’s highest court has echoed the views of Yochai Damri, a settler leader in the area,
who hopes to take over the vacated village. Speaking to UK newspaper The
Independent, Damri described the Susiya villagers as “criminals who invaded an area
that doesn’t belong to them.”
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