“Susiya, it’s finished!”

Featured

By the South Hebron Hills team.

Before us about 20 tents mostly made out of black or white tarpaulin sheets are nestled into the rugged landscape. The only sounds that can be heard are the faint sound of a television in one of the furthest tents, sometimes the bleat of a sheep, our footsteps, and the wind lifting up the dust earth beneath us; it barely alleviates the stifling summer heat. A number of small water cisterns are scattered amongst the tents. It looks like a makeshift camp even though it has been here for decades. We are in the Palestinian village of Susiya, in the south of the West Bank. Here there is no proper infrastructure, no running water or electricity supply. It stands in stark contrast to the Israeli settlement nearby, which looks like your average 21st century housing estate (settlements are fully integrated into Israel’s national power grid, water and telecommunication systems).

Susiya village with settlement in the background. Photo EAPPI/ L.l. Pianezza 28.6.2015 -

Palestinian village of Susiya in the foreground and the Israeli settlement of Susya in the background. Photo EAPPI/ L.l. Pianezza 28.06.2015

Continue reading

South Susiya: before and after the demolition

Featured

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. Continue reading

Stop work orders in Susiya; the first step towards demolitions

Featured

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.

Continue reading

Arrest in green pastures

Featured

by the South Hebron Hills Team, 

The South Hebron Hills, located in the south of the West Bank in Palestine, is a beautiful area, especially in spring. The soft rolling hills are covered with fresh green grass, carpets of yellow flowers and sprinkled with limestone. At this time of year after a long winter, the shepherds bring their flocks of sheep and goats out from their farms to graze on their lands. This seemingly idyllic setting is stunning but does not paint the whole picture because it is also scattered with illegal Israeli settlements, outposts and military bases. Continue reading

Video: ‘The Struggle to Save Susiya’

This video looks back on the summer months and gives a brief insight into ‘the struggle to save Susiya‘. It features interviews with Nasser Nawaja, a local peace activist and resident of Susiya.

Continue reading

Susiya: ‘another day of seeking and working for a just peace’

by EA Rev. D. Etherington​, Susiya

Just 14 months ago, I said my goodbyes to the residents of Susiya.  And now I have returned to this village in the South Hebron Hills as it faces threats of imminent demolition and a forced removal of all those living here. I have returned to Susiya at the invitation of the World Council of Churches to be part of a team of internationals providing ecumenical accompaniment and protective presence to the village in hopes that a demolition and removal may be put off.

02.07.15 Susiya. Abu Jihad with his grandchildren, July 2015, photo EAPPI by L. Magne Helgesen

02.07.15 Susiya. Abu Jihad with his grandchildren, July 2015, Photo EAPPI / L. Magne Helgesen

My arrival in Susiya coincided with the first day of Ramadan, the most holy time in the Muslim year, a time of fasting for the month. This month of fasting begins with the daily call to prayer in the pre-dawn hours and ends at the sunset call to prayer. This period of Ramadan will end July 18 and is a time of reflection and reformation of the soul.

Continue reading

It’s all about land

by the South Hebron Hills Team

We recently went on an excursion into the countryside with Nasser Nawaja a local contact and resident of Susiya. Nasser is a field researcher in the South Hebron Hills for B’Tselem an Israeli-Palestinian human rights organisation. Through his work he knows the fragmented pastures around Yatta like the back of his hand. While touring with Nasser he pointed out a number of restricted “security zones” around the settlements and explained how the grazing land is divided up between Palestinians and Israeli settlers. The first thought that struck me, while he spoke, was that there really should be no “division” as such, nor any dispute over who goes where; the UN has after all officially recognized Palestine as a country.

Photo EAPPI/ P. Moore

Hilltop showing patches of land which have different access rules for Palestinians and Israelis. South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/ P. Moore 2015

Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967 lands have been expropriated from their Palestinian owners under a variety of pretexts in order to allow the building of settlements. There are approximately 150 settlements in occupied Palestine. Significantly these settlements have large ‘buffer zones’ around them which Palestinians are denied access to.

“The fenced or patrolled areas of settlements cover three percent of the West Bank; in total 43% of the West Bank is allocated to settlement local and regional councils.” UNOCHA 2012

Compulsory purchase orders have been enacted which have taken advantage of legal frameworks dating from the times of the Ottoman Empire.  According to Ottoman law all land belongs to the State unless someone can specifically prove ownership in writing; further clauses have allowed the confiscation of land that has not been used or cultivated for three years. These laws tend to work against Palestinians living on the “seam zones and security areas”, where they are often denied permission to cultivate the land. Additionally when a dispute arises over the ownership of a particular tract of land, any use of the land is prohibited. This results in further loss of land and livelihoods for local herding communities.

“You see that brown patch of land down there in the valley?” said Nasser, pointing into the distance. “That and the green corridors extending away from it in both directions is an area closed to everyone. The same goes for the lush grassy area heading up from one of the corridors towards the outpost on the hill. On the other hand… the stretch of land from the look-out post down towards the road is off-limits to the settlers.” Nasser 2015

While Nasser spoke I tried in ernest to take the new information on board and to discern the logic of it all, if only so that I might remember the status quo in different strips of land on different hilltops. In the end I gave up realising it was a fruitless task and concluded “there was no logic”.

Nasser Nawaja and EAs talking with soldiers in patrol car. South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Nasser and EAs talking with soldiers in patrol car. South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P Moore

Soon after a patrol car appeared behind us and some Israeli soldiers beckoned us over. By coincidence, at that precise moment Nasser spotted a few goats belonging to the nearby settlement, grazing in an area that was off-limits to all parties. He pointed them out to the soldiers and asked why the goats were not being driven away from the prohibited area like Palestinian shepherds often were. The soldiers had no answer to this and they got back into their personnel carrier and drove away.

Nasser Nawaja discussing the land use in Yatta area with an ISF- soldier. South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P Moore

Nasser Nawaja discussing the land use in Yatta area with an ISF- soldier. South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P Moore

I burst out laughing but then I felt ashamed. The situations one encounters in this bizarre patchwork quilt of hills and valleys would be comical – if it were not so tragic for so many. Each and every ‘re-zoned’ strip of dirt is somebody’s lost land.

Here we go on frequent visits to vulnerable communities living in Area C to give our support to families whose homes have been bulldozed or who are awaiting demolition. Many have received demolition orders because their homes have been deemed too close to either an Israeli settlement, a military firing range or an archaeological site. Access to land in area Area C, where the Israeli government has full control, is severely restricted. In fact, less than 1% of Area C has been planned for Palestinian development and construction is heavily restricted in 29% of Area C. UNOCHA 2013

Just a few days ago, our team rolled up our sleeves and joined the locals who were working to clear the demolition rubble away from the foundations of a house that had been leveled. The Israeli military carried out the demolition of a dozen homes in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Khair in October 2014. Umm al-Khair is bordered by the Israeli settlement of Karmel.

EAs help carry rubble from site of demolished house in Land Action in Um al Khair, South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P Moore 2015

EAs help carry rubble from site of demolished house in Land Action in Um al Khair, South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

This particular family does not intend to leave and share their hopes and plans for rebuilding. They tell us that they will not build on the site where their previous home stood since the early 1960s, but right next to it. Many victims of demolition do this in the hope that the time it takes for a new building application to go through the courts will buy them some time in their new home. The temporary emergency shelters which the families now live in have been funded by both the European Union and the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and although this international support is greatly appreciated the residents say that they expect that these shelters will also be demolished before long. This is rural life in Area C in Palestine.

EAs and local residents clearing demolition rubble in Um al Kher South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P Moore 2015

EAs and local residents clearing demolition rubble in Um al Kher South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Al Mukhtasem Hathaleen carrying rubble from site of demolished house at Land Action in Um al Kher, South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P Moore 2015

Al Mukhtasem Hathaleen carrying rubble from site of demolished house at Land Action in Um al Kher, South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P Moore 2015

Approximately 99% of all Palestinian planning permission applications are rejected. Significantly, while old Palestinian houses are being demolished on regular basis, settlements, which are deemed illegal under international law, are being expanded at a steadily increasing pace. In some cases entire villages are under threat of demolition. The one that is probably closest to the heart of us EAs in the South Hebron Hills is the small community of Susiya, which has recently been featured in the pages of Israeli and Palestinian and international newspapers.

Susiya: a community at the heart of the struggle

Susema and Odei sheparding on Susiya fields, South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Susema and Odei sheparding on Susiya fields, South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

The Village of Susiya, South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

The Village of Susiya, South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Some 550 people live in the village of Susiya. Their main source of income comes from farming and animal husbandry. From the outside, the village might look like a ramshackle tangle of tents and shacks, but it has a soul and a school and a whole lot of children. Village community life flourishes.

The village of Susiya was here at its original location from the early decades of the 19th century. In 1986, the Israeli Civil Administration declared the village land was an archaeological site and the residents were expelled and the land was confiscated. Since then the village’s history has been one long chapter of nonviolent struggles against demolition orders. Just some weeks ago, the Civil Administration announced it had quashed the last legal obstacles to the complete destruction of the village. “Complete” in this case would not just include their makeshift homes but livestock barns, water tanks, solar panels – everything in the village.

The Village of Susiya, South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

The Village of Susiya, South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Susya forever, South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Susya forever, South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Things are rather different at the neighbouring Susiya settlement, built on village land from 1983 onwards. Life in the Israeli settlement carries on without any threats of the demolition.  The story of Susiya is one of many in the South Hebron Hills region, where too many people live from day to day never knowing when the next expulsion will come.

On the 10th of May the Civil Administration began ‘mapping’ Susiya – residents fear imminent demolition. Click here to learn more.

Take action box 2

 

Sign and spread the Avaaz Petition started by Susiya resident Nasser Nawajeh, Save My Village!

You can help their cause by sharing their story and spreading B’Tselem’s appeal through social media using #SaveSusiya.