The Palestinian village of Khirbet Susiya has existed in the South Hebron Hills at least since the 1830s. Its residents have traditionally earned a living from shepherding and growing olive trees. In 1983, the Israeli settlement of Susya was established near the village, on Palestinian land that had been declared state land by Israel. In 1986, about 25 families were living in Khirbet Susiya, in caves and structures. That year, the Civil Administration declared the village’s land an “archaeological site”; the land was confiscated “for public purposes” and the Israeli military expelled its residents from their homes. Having no other option, the families relocated to other caves in the area and flimsy wood-frame shelters and tents they erected on agricultural land a few hundred meters southeast of the original village and the archaeological site.
Since then, all attempts to plan a proper village with all necessary infrastructure have been thwarted, whilst settler outposts nearby are legalised and all facilities provided. Natural resources and land belonging to the Palestinians have been expropriated for settler use over the years, in a clear attempt to drive the villagers away. Water is abundant for settlers who have swimming pools and well-irrigated vineyards, but in short supply for the Palestinian owners of the land and resources.
The Palestinian residents are subject to ongoing violence from the settlers who steal and uproot trees and attack residents and their livestock with impunity.
Many Palestinian communities located in Area C of the West Bank are under full Israeli military control. Israeli-designated “firing zones” or “closed military zones” are forbidden for Palestinians to live on without permission from the Israeli occupation authorities, which is rarely granted. These declarations have had a serious humanitarian impact on Palestinian civilians and dramatically reduced the land available to them for residential and livelihood use.
Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by a large number of settlers, stormed the ancient village of Susiya amid tight military measures. During this visit, he provocatively declared Susiya to be an Israeli archaeological site. A protest against the occupation from Palestinian residents, NGO’s and international observers were violently suppressed by the Israeli occupation forces who used tear gas and sound bombs against the residents, as well as refusing entry for the press corps.
The international community has a responsibility to hold Israel accountable for its violation of international law and to enforce what it has proclaimed. We acknowledge and fully respect the condemnation statements, but with no credible measures towards ending the occupation and justly resolving the conflict, Israel will continue its violations with impunity. The impunity enjoyed by the occupiers must end and the rights of Palestinians living in this area must be upheld.