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Israeli forces demolish structures, assault locals in West Bank village

June 19, 2016 7:15 P.M. (Updated: June 21, 2016 2:39 P.M.)
Israeli authorities demolishing homes in Susiya, June 19, 2016 (Photo: Rabbis for Human Rights)
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Four people were injured and 26 Palestinians were left homeless on Sunday afternoon after Israeli forces assaulted locals and demolished Palestinian structures in the village of Susiya in the southern occupied West Bank, in contravention of written commitments to refrain from demolitions during the holy month from Ramadan.

According to the Israeli organization Rabbis for Human Rights, two homes were demolished in the southern part of Susiya, in addition to agricultural structures, including a barn and an outdoor kitchen.

Jihad Nawajaah, head of the local council of Susiya, told Ma’an that an Israeli bulldozer under military protection tore down a two-room brick house that belonged to Khalil Salameh Nawajaah.

He highlighted that seven members of Nawajaah family were left homeless and would likely spend the night in the open.

A statement released by Rabbis for Human Rights Sunday evening said: "In a shocking, cruel, and rare move, the Israeli authorities carried out demolitions today in Susiya and around Diraat. This despite the fact that it is the holy month of Ramadan, many are fasting, and the temperatures are soaring."

Palestinians left homeless after Israeli authorities demolish their home in Susiya (Photo: Rabbis for Human Rights)

The group said that after Palestinians and international solidarity activists remained inside one of the houses to resist the demolition, Israeli forces violently beat them, injuring four people, and that Israeli soldiers pushed elderly locals as well as women.

After carrying demolitions in Susiya, the convoy of bulldozers and Israeli military vehicles subsequently continued toward the nearby village of Diraat, seemingly to carry out further demolitions, the statement added.

Israseli forces and bulldozers in Susiya (Photo: Rabbis for Human Rights)

Head of Rabbis for Human Rights Rabbi Arik Ascherman said in response to the incident: “I have been dealing with home demolitions for 20 years and I have never seen home demolitions during Ramadan," the statement quoted him as saying.

In response to a request for comment, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told Ma'an that "Enforcement measures were taken against four illegal buildings that were built without permits and approval from authorized officials."

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, section 6 of an English-language document submitted to international agencies by COGAT, says that enforcement of local planning laws (meaning Palestinian home demolitions) would be frozen during Ramadan and the Id al-Fitr holiday, unless the structures posed a security threat. 

The residents of Susiya, added Nawajaah, have been facing a “systematic” process of displacement and home demolition, while farmers and shepherds have also been prevented from tending to their agricultural lands.

Ruins of a Palestinian home in Susiya (Photo: Rabbis for Human Rights)

Some 300 people live in Susiya, located in the hills near Hebron, adjacent to an illegal Israeli settlement of the same name. The Palestinian residents of the village live mainly on farmland, and their community has had no running water or electricity since they were expelled 30 years ago from the village's original location.

Since Israel’s Civil Administration declared the village land an “archaeological site” in 1986, its Palestinian residents have been expelled from their homes several times, relocating to caves, tents, and temporary wooden shelters in the area, according to B'Tselem.

While Israeli authorities have routinely declared that Susiya’s residents lack the appropriate permits to reside there, villagers say authorities have systematically denied their right to build for years.

The most recent legal decision regarding Susiya was made by the Israeli Supreme Court in May 2015, which refused to freeze the demolition orders threatening the village, meaning that Susiya’s residents face “imminent demolition of their homes, structures for public use, and agricultural facilities,” according to B’Tselem.

The decision sparked international outrage, with the US State Department warning that demolitions in the village would be "harmful and provocative." Several US lawmakers have since voiced their support for the village.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), some 900 Palestinians have been left homeless by Israeli home demolitions since the start of the year.

The majority were demolished in Area C, the more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli control, which includes Susiya.

OCHA found that between 2010 and 2014, only 1.5 percent of 2,020 building permit requests submitted were approved.

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