South Hebron Hills: Susiya Saga Continues

by Diane Janzen and Sean O'Neill

On June 6, the Israeli High Court lifted a temporary injunction that had prevented the Israeli military from performing evacuations and home demolitions in the Palestinian village of Susiya since 2001.
    The High Court gave the village leaders 30 days to present a map of the area, showing the existing structures and areas where villagers want to build houses, to the Israeli Civil Administration’s District Coordination Office (DCO).
    The judges said that the court had requested the map six months ago and had not received it.  However, the villagers had already submitted maps on two different occasions and the DCO had rejected them due to small technicalities.
    So, villagers began working with engineers from Hebron to draft yet another map.  On June 25, they hired surveyors to measure the land, but the Israeli army suddenly declared Susiya a closed military zone and ordered everyone to leave the area.
    Despite intervention from the DCO officer who had given permission for the work, soldiers produced a closed military zone order stating the area was closed every day from 7:00am to 10:00pm until further notice.
    The DCO officer said he might be able to negotiate with the military to give the surveyors access to the area.  However, delaying this important documentation further impairs the ability of the Palestinian villagers to defend their right to live on their land.  
    The Israeli military has evicted Palestinian villagers from Susiya and demolished their homes several times already in the last 20 years.  After the first eviction in the mid 1980's, the villagers relocated to other portions of their land.  However, Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement of Susya (established in 1983) complained that the Palestinians were too close and so the military evacuated the population again.
    In July 2001, after a settler from Susya was murdered, the Israeli military beat and arrested many Palestinians from the village, demolished most of the cave homes and other structures, filled in wells and cisterns with dirt and rocks, and destroyed fields.  Although soldiers told the villagers to leave the area, they remained, living in Red Cross tents, which the military also demolished after one week.  
    In the middle of September 2001, the military forcibly transferred the villagers to Palestinian-controlled area A in Hebron.  Villagers then submitted a petition asking the Israeli High Court to prevent further demolitions and evacuations and allow them to return to their land.  The court then placed a temporary injunction on further military activity.
    Now that the injunction has been lifted, settlers have been farming on Palestinians’ land.  On July 31, CPTers went to Susiya and documented a meeting between the Palestinian landowners, officials from the police, Israeli government, and District Coordinating Office (DCO).  The Israeli officials confirmed that the land in question is Palestinian private land and thus forbidden for settler use.  The police declared the land a closed military zone for Israelis only until they do more paper work for the official ruling