South Susiya: before and after the demolition

by EA Siphiwe, South Hebron Hills team.

Three weeks ago, EAs visited a village called Wadi J’Hesh which is also know as south Susiya, in the Hebron governorate. This village is located between the Palestinian village of Susiya and the illegal Israeli settlement Susya. During the visit we learned that, thanks to the intervention of local and international humanitarian NGOs, living conditions have been improving for residents. Wadi J’Hesh now has access to clean, safe drinking water and electricity. Despite these small improvements in living standards, the Israeli authorities have not yet recognised their village and the community still lives with the constant threat of demolition. At the time of our visit forty three structures in the village had pending demolition orders. Although they await a major court case on the 1st of August that will decide the fate of these structures, they know that demolitions can happen at any time.

The photos below were taken during that visit.

On the 19th of June 2016, two bulldozers accompanied by soldiers and the DCO arrived in the village and demolished three homes and one livestock pen. Three families consisting of twenty one people, including fourteen minors, were left homeless as a result. Locals also report that soldiers were violent towards residents who were resisting the demolitions nonviolently. [1]

Demolitions during Ramadan

This happened during the holy month of Ramadan and without any warning. The Palestinians in these areas were fasting under soaring temperatures. Typically, the Israeli authorities refrain from carrying out demolitions during Ramadan as a basic humanitarian gesture. Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that the authorities have contravened a written commitment that was made to freeze demolitions of Palestinian homes during Ramadan and the Id al-Fitr holiday, unless the structures posed a security threat. [2]

When we met with the families after the demolitions, they were in pain over what had just happened to them. Picking through the rubble of her demolished home Mona Nawaja, a mother of five who is expecting her sixth child, said:” “we have nothing now, everything is damaged, it is finished.”

20.06.16, Families next to the rubble of their demolished homes. EAPPI/S. Ntombeni

20.06.16, Families next to the rubble of their demolished homes. EAPPI/S. Ntombeni

This Ramadan, the residents of Susiya find themselves in an extremely precarious and vulnerable situation. Although they are awaiting a court case on the 1st of August, they are afraid that they could be targeted with more demolitions in the meantime. [3]

Since the 80s, almost every structure in Susiya has been issued with either a stop work order or a demolition order. [4] The Israeli authorities have declared the majority of the villages structures to be illegal because they have been built without building permits. However, it is important to note that 94% of applications for building permits by Palestinians living in area C are denied. In addition, the Israeli authorities have rejected all of the master plans the residents have submitted [5]This impossible situation has forced Palestinians to build without permits and risk demolition, just to meet their basic housing needs.

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.

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. Please write to your elected representatives asking them to urge the Government of Israel to immediately stop demolishing Palestinian structures in Susiya and to grant all Palestinian communities living in Area C access to a fair and representative planning system.

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More information:

B’Tselem: Civil Administration demolishes two family’s homes in mid-Ramadan

Video: 2016-06-19 Demolitions in Wadi Jheish and Deirat

Haaretz: Despite Ramadan Commitment, Israel Demolishes Structures in Palestinian Village

Rabbis for Human Rights: Susiya struggle against forced displacement

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