SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The Israeli military has delivered demolition orders to the residents of Susiya, a small village nestled between Israeli settlements, illegal outposts (settlements considered illegal by the Israeli government), and larger Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills. Susiya, which is in Area C of the West Bank, is being accused of illegally building over 50 homes without permits from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).
Regavim, an organization that pushes for the destruction of Palestinian villages, has filed a petition against the residents of Susiya, asking the court to freeze all building in the village for 90 days. The military demolition order came just days after the court rule to grant Regavim the freeze.
Though registered as a nongovernmental organization, Ma’an News Agency recently released a report demonstrating that Regavim is almost entirely made of West Bank settlers, many of which have close connections to right-wing Israeli parties, including Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s Likud.
Since 1985, Susiya has already been demolished five times—1985, 1991, 1997, and twice in 2001. Nasser Nawajeh, a resident of Susiya, says that the military usually says that their village is demolished for security reasons or illegal building.
Yet, each time the village has been demolished, a neighboring Israeli settlement (also named Susiya) expanded further into their land.
Nawajeh, speaking to a group of fifty internationals last September, argued that it was a stretch to say they illegally built homes—they live in tents hastily constructed from cinderblocks and rain tarps.
The villagers claim to be regularly attacked by the settlers next door. They say their sheep have been slaughtered on several occasions and their water wells are often poisoned. The IDF also demolishes the water wells on a frequent basis. Palestinians in Area C are not allowed to dig deeper than three feet without special permits.
In one instance, the military used bulldozers to collapse a water cistern that provided the village’s sheep with drinking water. Afterwards, the base of the cistern was stuffed with large car parts. For fear of rust poisoning, the villagers were unable to resurrect it.
The Nawajeh family works with several Israeli and international NGOs and projects to help raise awareness about the living conditions of West Bank Palestinians. They frequently give lectures for Breaking the Silence, an Israeli NGO made up of former IDF soldiers, operates biweekly tours of the Hebron and the surrounding areas, including the South Hebron Hills.
The villagers also participate in Shooting Back, a project which distributes handheld video cameras to the residents of Palestinian villages in order to document settler violence.
According to Ma’an News Agency, the United Nations humanitarian office expects that the demolition will displace roughly 350 villagers, 120 of which are children.
Writing for an Israeli audience, Nasser Nawajeh described how Susiya’s residents view the situation.
“Four months ago, the Regavim organization filed a petition to the High Court demanding that our village, Susiya, be destroyed. They refer to it as an ‘illegal outpost’ and claim that our village presents a security threat. Last week there was a hearing in the Israeli High Court,” he began.
“They call my village an illegal Palestinian outpost. But these have been our lands since before the establishment of the State of Israel. My father is older than your state and I am not legal on my own land? I ask you: where is the justice in that?”
The legal representative of Susiya is expected to file an appeal to Israel’s High Court. — www.shafaqna.com