At approximately 7.30 pm on Wednesday 25th July, three international human rights workers (HRWs) maintaining a presence in Susiya – a Palestinian farming community located in the South Hebron Hills – were called to assist two Palestinians who had been detained on Route 317 at the highway junction next to the illegal settlement of Susiya.
On arriving at the junction, the internationals filmed the situation, noting the number of the army vehicle and spoke to the two Palestinians, who were being kept away from their car at the side of the road. From what the internationals could gather, they had been stopped because they were ‘Arabs driving a car with Israeli license plates.
Coincidentally and at the same time, the internationals and the local Palestinian who had driven them to the scene noticed Israeli settlers working in the field opposite junction. Upon speaking to the local Palestinian it was discovered that this land belongs to several Palestinians living in Yatta, a nearby town, who had all the documents needed to prove their ownership. About a month and a half ago, settlers were found working on the land and were building a pipeline in order to irrigate it. After formally lodging a complaint with the local police, the settlers were told to vacate and discontinue their work there. They have since been caught a further four times working in the same area.
The HWRs recorded approximately ten settlers in the field and called a Christian Peace-Making Team (CPT) worker to the scene, in order to further document this violation of police orders. At approximately 8.10 pm, many of the land owners arrived from Yatta.
The CPT worker talked with the police, lodging yet another complaint, whilst the internationals continued to monitor the settlers and obstruct their view as they attempted to photograph the Palestinian land owners.
Negotiations with the police – a Palestinian-Israeli police officer in particular, continued until around 9.30 pm at which point the police informed the group that ‘everything had been resolved’ and they could all go home. The Palestinian and international party however decided to stay until the settlers had left which was at around 10.00 pm.
This situation highlights once again the violation of international law which Israel continues to uphold. Not only are settlements illegal under article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention – “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” but additionally, in July 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the occupation, the Wall and the Israeli settlements were all in violation of international law and must therefore be ended.
The existence of such law however means nothing if it is not upheld accordingly.