Despite Ramadan Commitment, Israel Demolishes Structures in Palestinian Village

Despite written commitment not to enforce construction laws during the holy month, civil administration brings bulldozers to Sussia.

A bulldozer destroys Palestinian dwellings in Susya, June 19, 2016.
B'Tselem

The Civil Administration in the West Bank on Sunday demolished two homes, an animal pen and an outdoor kitchen in the Palestinian village of Sussia in the South Hebron Hills, contravening a written commitment to avoid demolitions during Ramadan. The two bulldozers, accompanied by Civil Administration inspectors, soldiers and border policemen, then proceeded to the nearby village of Dirat and demolished another structure.

In an English-language document submitted to international agencies by the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Section 6 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 military and civil administration forces appeared in the southern part of Sussia at midday. Contract workers employed by the Civil Administration removed the contents from the simple homes (made of bricks and sheets of fabric) that housed 14 people, and destroyed the structures at around 2 P.M.

In 1986 the original village of Sussia was declared a national park and its residents were expelled to their adjacent agricultural lands. In 2001 they were expelled again, and the caves and sheds in which they lived were demolished. The High Court of Justice ordered the demolitions stopped and allowed the residents to remain at the site, but did not order the Civil Administration to permit the rebuilding of the homes and animal pens that had been thrown down. As a result, essentially all the structures in Sussia are without permits, including the playground, bathrooms, the school building and a visitors’ tent.

Israel has never prepared a master plan for the village and has rejected all the master plans the residents have submitted. The nearby Jewish settlement of Susya, whose orchards encroach on the Palestinians’ farmland, and the Regavim NGO have been pressuring the Civil Administration to enforce the demolition orders against Palestinian Sussia’s structures.

According to United Nations statistics, from the start of 2016 to mid-June Israel has demolished 548 Palestinian structures built without permits in Area C of the West Bank (where Israel retains full military and civilian control), compared to the 453 structures it demolished in all of 2015. Palestinians are allowed to build on only 1 percent of the land in Area C, which comprises 60 percent of the West Bank. Some 70 percent of the illegal structures were built on private Palestinian land.