Israeli authorities demolish Bedouin village in Negev for 112th time

Israeli forces demolished the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev region of southern Israel for the 112th time since 2010 Tuesday morning, and for the fourth time this year.

“Forces of demolition and ruin” stormed the village, which is “unrecognized” by Israel, and razed its makeshift homes to the ground, al-Araqib local committee member Aziz Sayyah told Ma’an.

He said large number of Israeli police officers escorted Israeli Interior Ministry bulldozers that tore down the houses.

The last time Israeli forces razed homes in al-Araqib was only weeks ago, on April 5, according to Israeli news site Arab 48.

“No matter how many times they demolish and destroy our village, they will not break our spirits,” Sayyah told Ma’an earlier this year. “Al-Araqib is ours and we are here to stay.”

Al-Araqib is one of 35 Bedouin villages considered “unrecognized” by the Israeli state. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in unrecognized villages.

Demolitions targeting Palestinians with Israeli citizenship sharply increased in 2017. An Israeli police raid to evacuate the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran turned deadly in January, and sparked widespread protests of the treatment of Palestinian citizens in Israel.

Right groups say that the demolition unrecognized Bedouin villages is a central Israeli policy aimed at removing the indigenous Palestinian population from the Negev and transferring them to government-zoned townships to make room for the expansion of Jewish Israeli communities.

The classification of their villages as “unrecognized” prevents Bedouins from developing or expanding their communities, while Israeli authorities have also refused to connect unrecognized Bedouin villages to the national water and electricity grids, and have excluded the communities from access to health and educational services, as well as basic infrastructure.

Moreover, al-Araqib residents have been ordered to pay more than 2 million shekels (approximately $541,000) for the cumulative cost of Israeli-enforced demolitions carried out against the village since 2010.

The unrecognized Bedouin villages were established in the Negev soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war following the creation of the state of Israel. Many of the Bedouins were forcibly transferred to the village sites during the 17-year period when Palestinians inside Israel were governed under Israeli military law, which ended shortly before Israel’s military takeover of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967.

Now more than 60 years later, the villages have yet to be recognized by Israel and live under constant threats of demolition and forcible removal.

Meanwhile, Israeli Jewish communities in the Negev continuously expand, with five new Jewish housing plans approved last year. According to an investigation undertaken by Israeli rights groups ACRI and Bimkom, two of the approved communities are located in areas where unrecognized Bedouin villages already exist.