HEBRON (Ma’an) – Israeli forces leveled land, uprooted trees and soiled water wells in the southern West Bank town of Surif northwest of Hebron Thursday morning.
Surif Mayor Muhammad Lafi Ghneimat told Ma’an that several Israeli military vehicles and bulldozers stormed the western outskirts of Surif and damaged around 20 dunums (5 acres) of private Palestinian property locally known as Qarnat Hadid.
While toppling dry stone walls built on the land and razing olive trees, the destruction filled three local wells with the ruins, making them unusable.Legal procedures regarding the land have been ongoing in Israeli courts since 2008, the mayor said. Israeli authorities declared the land state property after local farmers attempted to reclaimed it in 2008, Ghneimat explained. Since that time, the farmers have been denied access to their private land. “We tried to prevent the destruction today, but the Israeli soldiers blocked us and said they have a court order to level the area,” the mayor added, confirming that neither he nor farmers had received any court decisions.The Israeli Civil Administration spokesperson did not have immediate information on the incident.
Thursday’s razing comes after Israeli forces delivered notices to halt construction of six Palestinian residences in Surif in March.An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma’an that the Israeli army issues such notices when residences are built “illegally.”Palestinian residents in Surif and other villages and towns throughout the Hebron district face a continual threat of demolition or displacement.
In the south Hebron hills in particular, the illegal presence of around 3,000 Israeli settlers comes at the expense of Palestinian residents’ ability to build homes and infrastructure.
Building permits must be approved by Israeli authorities in order for construction to take place in the villages, which are classified as Area C under the Oslo Accords, giving Israel full military and civil control.
As a result of rarely-approved permits, Palestinian residents are forced to build structures without permits, which are liable to be torn down later by Israeli forces.
The Israeli practice of preventing either construction or expansion of Palestinian buildings in the Hebron district extends across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.