by ISM Hebron, January 13th
A solidarity delegation to the South Hebron Hills was approached by settlers from the notorious Susya settlement as they accompanied Palestinian farmers to their land. The settlers, however, withdrew when they became aware of the size of the over 400-strong group, comprised of Israelis, internationals and Palestinians.
Settlers from Susya and neighbouring settlements such as Ma’on have, with the help of the IOF and the Civil Administration, been trying for years to drive away the several thousand farmers and herders in the Masafir Yatta area in the South Hebron Hills. This has taken the form of physical attacks, intimidation and harrassment, and land and property destruction. The Israeli High Court could soon become an accomplice to this ethnic cleansing. On January 29th the appeal by the inhabitants of Susya will once again be discussed (it has been before the court since 2001) where they will again demand their right to live and work on their ancestral lands without being terrorized by settlers. The farmers’ ramshackle dwellings and agricultural structures are currently under threat of demolition and the farmers face eviction.
The farmers were only able to access their land annexed by the settlement today due to the large solidarity presence. Usually they are able to cultivate and graze their sheep on a small patch of land beside their tents. The stone dwellings they lived in for generations have been demolished by either the settlers or the IOF. Palestinians here are only able to sustain their precarious existence with the support of humanitarian and human rights organisations as their traditional sources of income are being closed off to them. As well as the theft of their land and settler attacks, restrictions of movement imposed by the Occupation make it difficult and expensive to get their produce to market in the nearest town, Yatta. They have to take an hour and a half trip to Yatta by tractor or donkey over the rocky hills as they are forbidden to use the settler-only roads.
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