By the South Hebron Hills team.
On the 10th of May 2016, the Israeli army’s Civil Administration District Coordination Office, accompanied by Israeli soldiers, issued four stop work orders on tents in Susiya in the Massafer Yatta area of Hebron.
This video shows the DCO official, accompanied by two soldiers, issuing a stop work order on a residential tent belonged to the Nawaja family. The family was not home at the time so the inspector leaves the stop work order under a rock next to the entrance of the tent. He then takes a photo of the order pinned under the rock as evidence that the notice of the order was executed lawfully. This tent is home to a family of seven, including five children. Jihad Nawaja, the head Susiya Village Council, talks with the inspector.
On the same day, the Israeli authorities issued stop work orders to three livelihood structures in the the village. These tents were used to shelter animals and to store water. All of the stop work orders were issued on the grounds that they had been built without Israeli issued building permits.
In Area C, the 60% of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control, construction is severely restricted for Palestinians and less than 1% of the land has been planned for Palestinian development. (UNOCHA 2013) Here any structures built without an Israeli issued building permit are deemed to be ‘illegal’ and risk demolition.
The Israeli Civil Administration closely monitors any construction that takes place in Palestinian villages in Area C, like Susiya. Any structures being built without a permit are then served with stop work orders. Stop work orders come with a summons for the owner to attend a hearing before the Inspection Subcommittee and they also require the owner to stop any further construction. Stop work orders are seen as the first step towards demolition so their delivery often comes as a devastating blow to the owner.
According to figures from UNOCHA, 94% of applications for building permits by Palestinians living in area C are denied. This forces Palestinians to build without permits and risk demolition to meet their basic housing and livelihood needs.
Since the 80s, almost every structure in Susiya has been issued with either a stop work order of a final stop work and demolition order. More recently, in December 2015 and January 2016 residents of Susiya report that drones were seen flying over the village. Then, on the 20th of January, two recently built residential tents were demolished displacing a family of eight including six minors. Again, on the 4th of February, the Israeli authorities came to the village, dismantled and confiscated two recently erected residential tents. The tents had been donated as emergency shelter to the same family who had lost their home in January.
Unless the residents of Susiya are given building permits for their homes and access to a fair and representative planning system then it appears as though this story of demolitions and displacement is set to continue.
As the occupying power, Israel is bound by International Humanitarian Law to protect the Palestinian civilian population. The Hague and the Fourth Geneva Conventions clearly state that the occupier cannot destroy or seize property on territory it is occupying, except if it is “imperatively demanded by the necessities of war”, which is clearly not the case in Susiya.
Please write to your elected representatives asking them to urge the Government of Israel to immediately stop demolishing Palestinian structures and to grant Palestinian communities living in Area C access to a fair and representative planning system.
See background: Khirbet Susiya
Norweigan Refugee Council: Stop Work and Demolition Orders issued in Area C
Rabbis for Human Rights: Susiya struggle against forced displacement