Settlers Occupy More Land, Destroy Olive Groves

26 October 2006

Today, October 21, soldiers and settlers from Susiya settlement came with army- issued bulldozers and proceeded to destroy 150 Dunums (1 Dunum=1/4 acre) of olive groves belonging to the Palestinians. The groves belong to the families of Ashmasti, Abu Sopea and Asha Bin who live in Susiya bedouin camp. The families had planned to harvest these olives at the end of Ramadan, when they would be finished fasting and have more energy to work. Because of the economic crisis throughout Palestine, and the particularly difficult situation for small farming communities in this area which is the beginning of the Negev desert, the demolition of this land will have unbelievably devastating consequences for the people of Susiya, and their ability to survive through the winter, when they will have little or no income.

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Susiya settlement is not more than 40 Dunums away from the camp. It started as a trailer camp over 10 years ago and, like many settlements, they were not at first supported by Israel. A group of Israelis decided they would go there and make new houses on this land, and eventually, when they brought enough people, the army would have no choice but to support and protect them. Today, Susiya settlement consists of many permanent houses which are protected by a constant military presence. Often times, when settlers go to attack the Palestinians, they do so with the accompaniment of one of these soldiers. They are currently constructing tents outside of this settlement to watch the Palestinian families and to annex more land for this illegal settlement.

In the past, these settlers have destroyed many crops belonging to the people of Susiya. A little over 1 year ago, settlers and soldiers came to demolish an olive grove, only to plant new olive trees on this same land they had just stolen. Recently, a group of settlers from the camp made bread from poisonous water and fed it to a flock of sheep belonging to the Palestinians. They have stolen trees, fruits, vegetables and animals. They attack these families on a regular basis. The families have tried calling lawyers, police, and the Israeli army, but no action has ever been taken on their behalf. When Abu Khalil was stabbed one month ago, no one was charged with the incident. This story continues.

The olives that were destroyed today were ripe, plump and ready to be picked. Now, the crops these families were depending on are gone, and with it, any possibility of future harvests as this land is now stolen by the settlers, who will, with the support of the Israeli army, claim it as their own and prevent Palestinians from going on it. We believe they will use this as some type of farming land for themselves, as is customary when settlements use this strategy to annex more land. Once they have occupied the land, the Israeli government rarely orders them to return it, and it usually is seen as an extension of the settlement.

PSP will continue to follow this situation.