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From the field

State seeks to demolish about half of the village of Susiya before HCJ hearing

In a letter sent this morning to the Civil Administration, representatives of the village of Susiya demanded that the authorities freeze all the demolitions planned over the coming days in the village. The letter was sent after it emerged that the scale of destruction the state seeks to sow in Susiya is much greater than was previously thought, and includes almost half the structures in the village. If the structures are demolished, the residents will have no way to survive in the area in conditions of extreme heat and cold. Accordingly, the action effectively constitutes the expulsion of the residents from their land.

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The urgent letter was sent by the village’s legal advisors, Attorneys Quamar Mishriqi Asad and Avital Sharon, to Major Eran Gross, the deputy head of the Infrastructure Division in the Civil Administration. The letter noted that the planned demolitions constitute improper political pressure rather than a plan based on considerations of proper planning or concern for the welfare of the protected residents and public order. The demolitions Israel seeks to execute next week, after the festival of Id al-Fitr, are intended to placate the settlers, who over the years have seized the private land of residents of the village without any intervention on the part of the Civil Administration.

Last Sunday, the Coordinator of Government Actions in the Territories (COGAT) and representatives of the Civil Administration held a meeting on their initiative with residents of the village of Susiya. During the meeting, the officials threatened that due to pressure from the settlers, they would be executing demolitions in the village even prior to 3 August 2015, the date scheduled for a hearing in the petition filed by residents of the village at the High Court of Justice.

Yesterday evening, a letter from Major Gross was forwarded to the residents detailing the list of buildings the Civil Administration wants the residents to demolish. The list includes around thirty structures, including residential homes, animal shelters, the village clinic, storerooms, outhouses, etc. These structures serve 74 of the residents of Susiya, including 35 minors, and facilitate the survival of the residents. In addition, the Civil Administration included six other structures in the list in the community of Wadi Jahish, which is adjacent to the village of Susiya, despite the fact that this community does not form part of the petition. These buildings serve 17 residents, 10 of whom are minors.

Of the buildings slated for demolition by the Civil Administration, 21 were constructed with funding from European governments. The heads of all the missions of the EU member states in Palestine toured Susiya last month and urged the Israeli government to refrain from demolishing the village.

The letter quotes the opinion of Prof. Eyal Benvenisti that the planned demolition over the coming summer will constitute a grave breach of international humanitarian law, which prohibits the expulsion of protected persons: “The significance of the execution of the demolition orders that are the subject of this opinion is effective ‘transfer’ of protected residents by creating physical conditions that require the protected persons to leave the place in which they are present against their will. Following the planned demolition of the buildings, there will be no way to survive within the area of the village without shelter and other facilities ensuring the residents’ ability to survive and make a livelihood. In addition to the indirect transfer, the demolition of the buildings in the village as described above constitutes the demolition of buildings vital for the survival of the residents of the village; this, too, is prohibited.”

It should be emphasized that the demolition policy applied by the Israeli authorities in Area C, of which the planned demolition of Susiya forms part, is not based on considerations of planning, building, law and order. Rather, it constitutes the cynical manipulation of planning laws in order to restrict the presence of the Palestinian population and to expand the settlement enterprise. If the demolition is executed, this will create irreversible damage and immense suffering for the residents of Susiya. Meanwhile, the residents of the adjacent outposts, which were also built without building permits or outline plans, will continue to enjoy the support of the authorities and connection to water and electricity services, without facing threats to demolish their homes.