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Israeli Occupation Seeks To Demolish Ancient Palestinian Village On ‘Archaeological’ Grounds

Residents of Sussia granted temporary injunction against demolition in 2014, but state wants to move them to nearby Yatta.

The state has asked the High Court of Justice for permission to demolish the ancient Palestinian village of Sussia and relocate its residents to Yatta, near Hebron, allowing for more archaeological work at the site.

The government’s intent was noted in a response to the High Court of Justice regarding a petition filled by Sussia residents and human rights organizations about a year ago.

Before this petition was filed, an additional petition was filed by the Regavim organization, funded by settler-group Amana and regional authorities in the West Bank, calling for Palestinian “illegal outposts” in Sussia to be demolished.

The state opposed the court’s temporary injunction against demolition, despite the fact it often supports such temporary injunctions when they are made against illegal Jewish outposts.

Just last month, the government approved such a temporary injunction against the demolition of two structures in the Beit El settlement, after the High Court had already made a ruling.

The petition criticizes decisions made by the Civil Administration’s planning committee to reject an alternate plan suggested by Sussia residents, stating that the relocation to Yatta is in their best interest. The residents’ petition also seeks to cancel 64 separate demolition orders against all of the 100-or-so structures in the village. Alternatively, the residents ask that the Civil Administration offer a different solution that would allow them to continue living on the land, which they own.

Attorney Kamar Mishraki-Asad, representing the Sussia residents, told Haaretz, “It’s incredible, but with the settlements, it was already ruled that Sussia land is privately owned and thousands of dunams of land in the area are privately owned by Palestinians. Despite this, for many years the army has prohibited residents from setting up their homes in the area, and has rejected any request for construction or planning permits, in order to keep them away from the Sussia settlement and to allow the settlers to continue seizing the agricultural lands, and expel the residents to Areas A and B.

“Now, after residents made great efforts and prepared plans for their village, the army continues its policy while cynically relying on planning concerns,” Mishraki-Asad added. “For years, the army has forbidden water, electricity and drainage infrastructure to be built, and now claims that expelling the residents is for their own good.”

Last Thursday, the state issued its official stance on the matter, saying that, in contrast to the Palestinians’ claim, “There was no historic Palestinian village at the archaeological site there; that the village consists of only a few seasonal residences for a few families; and the land is necessary for the continuation of archaeological work.”

It should be noted that the archaeological site at Sussia is run by the nearby Jewish settlement of the same name, and there are Jews living there in illegal structures.

Regarding its decision not to approve further construction in the area – in contrast with the policy allowing for nearby Jewish construction – the state claimed that such construction would only serve a small number of residents who are actually more connected to Yatta. It claimed that their construction plans were unreasonable, due to the need for electrical infrastructure and the local infrastructure was insufficient to provide for appropriate incorporation of residents into the job market.

The state said it was willing to allocate government-owned lands, located half a kilometer away from Yatta, for the Palestinian Sussia residents, and to assist with construction. The lands are close to the village and would be ideal for farming and grazing, it added.