The United States warned Israel against the pending demolition of Sussiya after officials on Wednesday visited the Palestinian herding village in the West Bank’s South Hebron Hills.
“If the Israeli government proceeds with demolitions it would be very troubling,” State Department Press Office director Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.
It was the third day in a row that the issue of Israeli demotions of Palestinian structures in Area C of the West Bank had been raised by reporters at the daily briefing.
“We remain concerned about the increased demolition of Palestinian structures in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which reportedly have left dozens of Palestinians homeless, including children,” she said on Tuesday. “More than 650 Palestinian structures have been demolished this year, with more Palestinian structures demolished in the West Bank and east Jerusalem thus far than in all of 2015.”
Officials from the US Consulate General in east Jerusalem visited the village of some 300 people who live in tents, makeshift tents, shacks and some modular structures. The consulted tweeted a photograph of its staff on the outskirts of the village.
A diplomatic source told The Jerusalem Post that both the United States and the European Union have spoken privately with Israeli officials about the matter.
“We hope the Israelis won’t move ahead,” the source said, adding that to do so “would be to go against the whole international community,” elicit “a lot of angry reactions,” and would be the “crossing of a red line” because it would be “the first major displacement of a big group of people.”
The village has been in a land battle with the state since the 1980s, and as a result has been relocated a number of times.
The Civil Administration has rejected a number of master plans which would have authorized the structures. In 2014, Rabbis for Human Rights and Sussiya residents petitioned the High Court of Justice in an attempt to force the Civil Administration to authorize the village.
Over the last year, representatives from Sussiya and the Civil Administration have worked to find a compromise solution. Those meetings were suspended in July because Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman – who took office in May – had not yet issued an opinion on the matter.
Earlier this month, the High Court ordered Liberman to present his views on the issue no later than August 15. It is presumed that Liberman, who has publicly stated that the village must be torn down, is likely to act on that sentiment now that he is defense minister.
South Hebron Regional Council head Yochai Damri said he was “outraged” with US interference with regard to Sussiya.
“We’re talking about a criminal clan from Yatta that has taken over the land and has built illegally,” Damri said, adding that the issue has been before the courts for years.
“It’s unacceptable that the US government would interfere on legal matters,” said Damri. “We’re talking about an attempt to prejudice the court in a foreign country.”
The non-governmental group Regavim said that such foreign intervention was not new but rather was part of a “campaign of lies” by the Left.
As an earlier petitioner to the High Court against the village, it called on Liberman to “ignore the improper intervention by foreign countries into internal Israeli affairs.”