Israelis, Palestinians march for West Bank town set for demolition

The march in Susya, southeast of Hebron, took place on the anniversary of what the Palestinians call the Naksa

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Hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians marched Friday in support of a West Bank village slated for demolition, a plan they said epitomizes the Israeli occupation.

The march in Susya, southeast of Hebron, took place on the anniversary of what the Palestinians call the Naksa (Setback), when Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day war displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Israel’s High Court ruled in May that Susya’s 340 residents could be relocated and its structures demolished, which Human Rights Watch derided as “a grave breach” of Israel’s obligations to the Palestinian populace under its military rule.

HRW said the villagers built the homes in 1986 on agricultural land they owned, after being evicted by Israel from their previous dwellings on land declared as an archeological site.

Authorities then argued that the new site was unsuitable for habitation due to its remote location, HRW said.

It lies in the area of the West Bank where Israel wields full control over planning matters and rarely grants building permission to Palestinians.

Members of Combatants for Peace, an NGO that brings together former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants to promote peace, held signs reading “There is another way.”

Dov Hanin, a Jewish member of parliament with the Arab Joint List, said no place was more suitable than Susya to mark the anniversary of the 1967 war.

“Susya tells the entire story in a nutshell,” he told marchers. “The residents are told ‘you’ve no place on the face of the earth.”

The event was organized by Combatants for Peace activist Shai Eluk, 24, himself an ex-soldier who served in the area three years ago.

“The demonstration today was because of the recent court decision,” he told AFP. “The Palestinian members asked that the demonstration to mark 48 years of occupation take place in Susya.”

The Israeli army has refused to say when it plans to demolish the new Susya, but said it can legally do so at any time, in accordance with the court ruling.

Since 1996, Israel has granted only a few hundred building permits for Palestinian structures in the area. Amnesty International says only 76 were issued between 1996 and 1999.

And from 2000-2014, only 206 permits were issued, Israeli NGO Bimkom says.

In 2014, Israel granted a single building permit in the area, which covers more than 60 percent of the West Bank.