Middle East

Residents of West Bank village brace themselves for imminent demolition

First published online at the Institute for Middle East Understanding.

Following a ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice on May 15, 2015, granting the Israeli military permission to demolish the entire village of Susiya and expel its residents to Area A of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the people of Susiya prepare for the imminent destruction of their homes.

After years of threats, several demolitions and multiple demolition orders, the residents of Susiya refuse to give up hope and continue to fight for their legal right to remain living on their land.

Susiya is a small, peaceful village located in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank, home to approximately 350 men, women and children. The village is overlooked by a Jewish settlement that was built in 1983.

The village of Susiya is comprised of tents and caves, all of which are under demolition order.

The village of Susiya is made up of tents and caves, all of which are under demolition order.

On July 15, 2015, community spokesman Nasser Nawajaa received a document from the Israeli military giving details of the structures that are scheduled to be demolished. Over 30 are listed, including residential tents, a school, a health clinic, and solar panels which are the only source of power for the village and were funded by European governments.

On the evening of July 15th 2015, the residents of Susiya received a document from the Israeli military detailing which structures are due to be demolished first. Over 30 structures are listed, including a school, a clinic, several animal shelters and many residential tents, leaving the inhabitants with nowhere to go and no shelter or water in harsh desert conditions.

Community members gather around a laptop to see a document from Israel’s Civil Adminstration that reveals which of their homes are to be demolished first.

Approximately half of the village is due to be demolished first with further demolitions expected to follow. 21 of the buildings slated for demolition were built with funding from European governments.

One of the residential tents in Susiya that is scheduled to be demolished before the 3rd of August 2015.

One of the residential tents in Susiya that is scheduled to be demolished before the 3rd of August 2015.

Although no specific date has, nor will be, given, the demolition is expected to take place before the 3rd of August 2015, the date scheduled for an appeal hearing at the High Court of Justice.

This will not be the first demolition of the village. In 1986 the residents of Susiya were expelled from the original site of their village after the Israeli authorities declared it a National Archaeological Park. Determined to stay on their land, the villagers took up residence on their agricultural land. In 2001 the village was again demolished, with the Israeli army destroying tents, caves and cisterns, as well as agricultural land, killing the farm animals.

Remaining steadfast on their farmland, the people of Susiya again rebuilt the village with tents and caves and continued their struggle in resistance to the constant threats of demolition.

A Palestinian girl sits in front of Susiya, her village, overlooked by an illegal Israeli settlement on the hill. Although she's a child, she understands that because of the settlement, the Israeli authorities will soon demolish her home and village.

A Palestinian girl sits in front of her village, Susiya, which is overlooked by an illegal Israeli settlement. Even at her young age she understands that her village and home could be demolished at any time.

In 2012, the Israeli authorities again issued demolition orders to over 50 temporary shelters built by the residents. In 2014, the residents of Susiya, represented by the Israeli group Rabbis for Human Rights, went to court in an effort to freeze the implementation of the demolition order and submitted a master plan for the legal development of the village. The Civil Administration rejected the master plan, giving various reasons, one of which suggested that the villagers would have a better quality of life in the nearby town of Yatta and should relocate there.

The move was part of Israel’s policy in Area C of the West Bank to facilitate the confiscation of Palestinian land in order to build and expand existing settlements and to expel Palestinians from Area C.

The residents of Susiya live in tents and caves without access to running water or electricity. The nearby illegal Israeli settlement has both in abundance.

The residents of Susiya live in tents and caves without access to running water or electricity, even though electricity lines and water pipes run past the village into the nearby settlement.

The people of Susiya live under extremely difficult circumstances without access to running water and electricity, and face regular – often violent – attacks from the settlers who live in the nearby settlement that overlooks the village. The destruction of olive trees is also a common activity by the settlers.

A Palestinian man stands next to an olive tree that like many of the trees has been damaged by Israeli settlers in an effort to force the residents of Susiya to leave their land.

A Palestinian man stands next to an olive tree that has been damaged by Israeli settlers in an effort to force the residents of Susiya to leave their land.

A Palestinian man confronts an Israeli soldier and asks why the soldiers did nothing to stop the settlers damaging his olive trees. The soldier doesn't respond and calls for backup. Susiya village, South Hebron Hills, the West Bank, Palestine

A Palestinian man confronts an Israeli soldier and asks why they did nothing to stop the settlers damaging his olive trees. The soldier doesn’t respond and calls for backup.

Speaking about the activities of the settlers who prevent Palestinians reaching their farmland adjacent to the settlement and restrict their access to water, Nasser Nawajaa commented: “There is no justice here for the Palestinians. They (the settlers) try to make pressure to move the Palestinians outside.”

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Community leader and spokesman, Nasser Nawajaa

If the demolition order is carried out as planned, over 300 Palestinians will be expelled from their homes, rendering them homeless in severe desert conditions.

Scroll down to see more photos of Susiya and the people who call it home.

A resident of Susya talks about her life under occupation and how she copes with not only the constant threat of demolition but also the fear of settler activity and violence. She has already lived through several demolitions and talks of her hope to someday live on her land in peace.

A resident of Susya talks about her life under Israeli military occupation and how she copes with not only the constant threat of demolition but also the fear of  violence from the settlers. She has already lived through several demolitions and talks of her hope to someday live on her land in peace.

Children sleep inside their family tent in Susiya. It is one of the structures due to be demolished by the Israeli army.

Children sleep inside their family tent in Susiya. It is one of the structures due to be demolished.

A Palestinian girl stands in front of a slide in Susiya.

A Palestinian girl stands in front of a slide in Susiya.

Susiya Sunset

A Palestinian girl whose home in Susiya is scheduled to be demolished before the 3rd of August 2015, leaving her and her family homeless in harsh desert conditions.

A young Palestinian girl whose home will soon be demolished, leaving her and her family homeless.

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Community members meet to discuss the future of their village. Some of the children thought I was filming and stood in front of the camera for a while, just long enough to capture their shadows in a 30 second exposure.

A Palestinian girl plays on a slide in Susiya, oblivious to the fact that it may soon be demolished along with the rest of the village.

A Palestinian girl plays on a slide in Susiya, unaware of the fact that it may soon be demolished along with the rest of the village.

A young Palestinian girl attends a summer camp in Susiya.

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Jihad Nawajaa, father of community spokesman Nasser Nawajaa, sits inside his son’s tent which is among the homes scheduled to be demolished.

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International volunteers offer support and show solidarity with the people of Susiya. The children especially enjoy their company.

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The villagers are calling for an international presence to document the situation as it unfolds.

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EAPPI volunteer Hank has his hands full with these young boys from Susiya.

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The younger residents of Susiya enjoy learning how to use a camera, a skill that will be useful for them in the future as they can document their situation for themselves.

A beautiful Palestinian girl from Susiya poses for the camera.

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Children from Susiya play on an old rusty vehicle.

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A young Palestinian man sits inside his family's home in Susiya. It is one of the structures due to be demolished by the Israeli army.

A Palestinian boy sits inside his family’s home in Susiya. It is one of the structures due to be demolished.

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A family enjoy the Iftar meal after breaking the fast during Ramadan.

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Solar power from panels provided by European governments is the only source of power for the residents of Susiya.

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International volunteers and supporters do a great job of keeping the children entertained and distracted from the possibility of Israeli bulldozers arriving at any time to demolish their homes.

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Jihad Nawajaa relaxes inside his son’s tent which is under demolition order.

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Community meeting in Susiya

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Community members gather to find out which homes are on the Israeli Civil Administration’s list of structures to demolish before August 3rd 2015.

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Bath time in Susiya.

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Olive trees are very important to Palestinians and are for many their only source of income. Settlers often cut down branches, if not entire trees, and sometimes set fire to them. Their goal is to make life difficult for the Palestinians so that they will eventually leave the land, allowing the settlers to claim it and build more settlements.

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Sisters inside the tent they call home.

Without official permission from the Israeli authorities to build permanent structures on their own land, the residents of Susiya, like many Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank, are forced to live in tents and make-shift temporary structures.

A team of workers from the Palestine Red Crescent Society carry out workshops and games with the children of Susiya.

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This story is published on the Institute of Middle East Understanding website which can be viewed by clicking here.

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