Our report on the fire that consumed the kitchen of Hajja Sara on Tuesday,December 28, was based on what the Hajja told us when we visited the place, a few hours after the fire. The Hajja’s claim that the fire was set by settlers seemed conceivable to us, due to various incidents of nightly arson taking place during the last years in Susya, in Hajja Sara’s as well as in other families’ living sites, and due to further incidents of attacks by Susiya settlers against people and property, both during the day and at night.
On the day of the fire, while we were in Hajja Sara’s living site, a General Security Service (Shin Bet) investigator arrived at the place, accompanied by several soldiers. The investigator, together with Hajja Sara and one of her sons went down to the site of the fire and looked at the kitchen tent. Since we were present at the place during this investigation and could appreciate its less than serious nature (to put it mildly), we didn’t assign any significance to the rumor spread by the GSS that the fire’s cause was a kerosene stove left burning inside the kitchen. As is well known, the GSS is a secretive body, operating by squeezing confessions and by spreading rumors, and not by openly distributing information in a way that enables verification or criticism.
Recently, we received (indirectly) from the fire department in Yatta more significant information regarding the possible source of the fire in Hajja Sara’s kitchen. As we wrote in an earlier report, a fire truck of the Yatta fire department was called but was detained by soldiers who blocked its way. It reached the location of the fire very late; after the fire was extinguished by the local residents. According to information that reached some of Susya’s residents few days after, the conclusion reached by the fire department staff from Yatta, based on their visit to the site, is that the source of the fire in Hajja Sara’s kitchen is not deliberate arson but fire that spread from the Taboun (traditional earthen oven) installed behind the kitchen. This conclusion seems to us more probable then the one delivered by the GSS investigator, mostly because it was reached by professionals whose profession is to extinguish fires and investigate their reasons and sources. We also know that a request submitted by “Btselem” (Israeli Human Rights NGO) to the Yatta fire department, to receive a formal report on this matter, was not granted until now.
The violence used by settlers from the Susya area against the Palestinian residents there is a well known and persistent matter. The last striking example is the incident on December 13 in which a large number of settlers attacked, in broad daylight, the living site of two families living in the southern part of Susya, damaging property and inflicting severe physical injuries on two elderly men living there – one of them Hajja Sara’s brother. This violent incidence, like many before it, was not appropriately treated or genuinely investigated by the legal authorities of the army and the police.
As opposed to these clear cases of settlers’ violence in Susya, met with deliberate inaction by the law enforcing authorities, in the case of the fire in Hajja Sara’s kitchen on December 28, it is still not possible for us at the moment to reach a definite conclusion. The version given to us by the Hajja is now contrasted by what was informally conveyed by the Yatta fire department to a few of Susya’s residents (including some members of the Hajja’s family ) – that the source of the fire is not arson but an accident caused, among other things, by the proximity of the Taboun tent to the kitchen tents.
When we tell the world about the events taking place in South Mount Hebron and in other occupied places we personally know, we try to be as exact and reliable as possible. But reality is often much more complex than our first conception of it. We live in a space fraught with uncertainties, some stemming from the very nature of reality, others politically manufactured. Things are sometimes crystal clear, and sometimes wrapped with uncertainly that might never be resolved. If we will have any new information on the incident of the fire in Hajja Sara’s kitchen, rest assured that we will deliver it without bias. We thank you, the readers of our reports, for trusting us.
Ehud and Erella, in the name of The Villages Group