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Susiya local council head Jihad al-Nawajaa told Ma’an that the group of settlers “physically and verbally assaulted Palestinians in the village as other Palestinian locals confronted the group and forced them to leave the area.”
Al-Nawajaa said it was the first time Knesset members set foot in Susiya, and he considered the development to be “bad omen” for Palestinians living in Susiya, as almost half of their village is under threat of demolition by the Israeli government.
A spokesperson for the Knesset could not immediately be reached for comment on the incident or to identify the Knesset members. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an they were looking into reports.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported earlier on Monday that right-wing Knesset members were planning to tour several areas of the south Hebron Hills, including Susiya.
Susiya’s residents have been embroiled in a decades-long legal battle to legalize the village and have endured multiple demolitions enforced by Israeli authorities over the years, who say Palestinians lack the proper building permits to live on the land that lies between an Israeli settlement and Israel-controlled archaeological site.
The privately owned Palestinian land is located in Area C — the more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli control — where building permits for Palestinians are nearly impossible to obtain.
Many of the villagers have ties to the land that predate the creation of the state of Israel, and Ottoman-era land documents to prove it.
In mid-July, authorities from Israel’s Civil Administration abruptly halted months of dialog with Susiya’s residents over the possibility of legalizing the village, telling them that a future agreement on the village would now be the responsibility of far-right Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Lieberman postponed the announcement of his decision twice, first until November 2016, and then until December.
According to spokesperson for Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) Yariv Mohar, who is assisting in Susiya’s legal battle, Lieberman’s decision on whether or not to continue the dialogue between the residents of Susiya and the Civil Administration is set to be announced on Dec. 15.
Lieberman will be responsible for deciding whether to accept the state of Israel’s request to immediately and without prior notice demolish some 40 percent of the southern occupied West Bank village, where half of the 200 village residents live according to RHR.
Though Lieberman has yet to formally announce a decision, comments the defense minister made last week regarding the village indicate that in his opinion, the residents of Susiya should be subject to the same treatment as the settlers occupying privately owned Palestinian land in the illegal Israeli Amona outpost — to be evacuated from the land.