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Israeli forces order Hebron village demolished after settler case

June 12, 2012 5:29 P.M. (Updated: June 18, 2012 12:39 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces on Tuesday handed a southern West Bank village demolition orders for each of its 50 buildings, a week after Israeli authorities agreed to halt all construction in the area in response to a petition filed by a settler group.

Susiya village, in the south Hebron hills, has three days to appeal the decision before their village is demolished, resident Nasser Nawaja told Ma'an.

The community's lawyer Quamar Mishirqi said she will file an objection to Israel's High Court.

The mass demolition notices come days after an Israeli court heard Susiya's case to remain in their homes. The village is fighting a petition by the neighboring Jewish-only settlement also called Susiya, and an Israeli group pushing to demolish Palestinian buildings called Regavim.

Last Wednesday, the court decided to implement a total freeze on building in the village, and the state agreed to inform the court of its plans for the village with 90 days, as requested in the Regavim petition.

While Regavim is registered as a non-governmental organization and says it is interested in equal application of the law, a Ma'an report last month showed it is run by residents of Israeli settlements and illegal outposts, with political connections to local government and the Likud and National Union parties.

Further, according to Israeli experts who reviewed the group’s official reports, the NGO is financed by publicly funded local councils of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The United Nations humanitarian affairs office has warned that Susiya, a hamlet of 350 people, including 120 children, is at immediate risk of forced displacement as a result of Regavim’s petition.

Nawaja told Ma'an the demolition orders intend to clear the village of its inhabitants in order to use the land for Israeli settlements. All settlements are illegal under international law.

The village lies in an area called Masafer Yatta, long besieged by settlements and their outpost offshoots, as well as a steady stream of demolition orders.

Residents of the area are a mixture of pre-1948 communities squeezed by their proximity to the ceasefire line with the new Israeli state, agricultural lands farmed by Yatta residents who moved out to live on their fields, and Bedouin encampments set up by those displaced from the Negev desert in the war to establish Israel.

When Israel began building settlements in the area in the early 1980s, villagers say the army started putting pressure on them to move from Masafer Yatta.

In 1999, the entire population was evacuated by the Israeli army. After a battle in Israel’s High Court, residents were granted ‘temporary’ permission to return.

"The court agreed this is our land, but they will not give us permission to build on it," says Susiya council chief Muhammad Ahmed Nawaja.

International law experts say that under the Fourth Geneva Convention Israel must provide for the needs of the occupied Palestinian population, and are prohibited from demolishing any structure that has a civilian purpose.
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