Khirbet a-Duqaiqah, South Hebron Hills, 19 August 2012. Photo: Nasser Nawaj'ah, B'Tselem
The village of Khirbet a-Duqaiqah in the South Hebron Hills is home to over 300 residents. Although the village has existed for decades in its location near the Green Line (the 1949 Armistice Line), the Civil Administration has consistently refused residents’ requests to draft plans for their village and has issued demolition orders for its buildings.
After demolition orders were served in 2005 for various village structures, including the school and the mosque, the Israeli NGO Rabbis for Human Rights filed a petition to the High Court of Justice on behalf of the villagers. The petition sought to require the Civil Administration to revoke the dozens of demolition orders hitherto issued for village buildings and to prepare a master plan for the village. In response, the Civil Administration argued that the village does not meet the criteria set for village planning in Area C and emphasized that “it is inconceivable that the authorities should take action on a regular basis to promote master plans for every cluster of illegal construction.” The Civil Administration argued further that just a few kilometers from Khirbet a-Duqaiqah there is a village (Hameiydah) for which the Civil Administration was considering to draft a plan. According to the Civil Administration, the residents of the two villages belong to the same Bedouin tribe and the school and medical clinic at Hameiydah also serve the residents of Khirbet a-Duqaiqah. Therefore, the construction of the “illegal structures” in Khirbet a- Duqaiqah does not justify “legalizing another compound in this vicinity”. Notwithstanding, the Civil Administration noted that the villagers could submit a plan of their own, which the Civil Administration would study carefully.
In January 2010, the High Court of Justice rejected the petition, after finding no justification for intervening in the considerations of the Civil Administration. A year later, in January 2011, even before the villagers had had a chance to draft a master plan as the Civil Administration had suggested in its response to the petition, the Civil Administration demolished 17 structures in Khirbet a-Duqaiqah, including residential tents and a classroom. The villagers’ legal counsel contacted the Civil Administration asking about its basic approach regarding planning for the village. In September 2011 the Civil Administration replied, saying “The prospects for approval of the proposed plan are not very good”, because “the village will have trouble maintaining itself as a social and geographic entity”, and because the size of its population cannot justify the costs of building the infrastructure and services involved in establishing an independent community. This answer was given despite the fact that the Civil Administration had approved the establishment of small settlements in the South Hebron Hills, numbering only a few dozen or a few hundred settlers when founded, as well as approving settlements located just a few kilometers away from existing settlements.
In December 2011, the Civil Administration issued another 46 demolition orders for structures in the village. Together with other demolition orders issued in prior years, the number of buildings facing demolition now reached 77, a majority of the village buildings. The residents again applied to the High Court of Justice seeking to freeze the implementation of the demolition orders, until the preparation of the master plan for the village would be completed and deliberations held about it by the Civil Administration’s planning institutions. Following the petition, the parties reached an agreement whereby the Civil Administration would discuss the master plan to be submitted by the petitioners and would summon them to present the plan to its planning agencies. Until conclusion of the discussion concerning the plan, the Civil Administration would not demolish village structures, and the petitioners undertook not to construct any new ones. The agreement between the parties was given the force of a legal ruling in April 2012.
In March 2013, the Civil Administration rejected the villagers’ master plan. Neither representatives of the village residents nor their attorneys had been summoned to present the plan to the planning authorities of the Civil Administration as the latter had pledged in the agreement. When challenged by the villagers’ legal counsel, the Civil Administration voided its decision and is to summon village representatives before reaching a new decision. Until that time, the village was obliged to freeze all construction: residents may not build new homes or public institutions, may not connect to water or power supplies, so they continue to live in uncertainty about their future there.
Moreover, the route that is planned for the Separation Barrier south of the village will separate the village from its pastures (encompassing about 500 hectares) and the water wells used by the residents. In response to the petition against this route filed by Rabbis for Human Rights on behalf of the village, the State said in March 2009 that "at the present time" there was no intention to build the wall on the aforesaid route.