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Israel destroys Bedouin village for 54th time

Aug. 15, 2013 9:01 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 19, 2013 12:13 A.M.)
BEERSHEBA (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities on Thursday demolished the Bedouin village of al-Araqib for the 54th time.

Resident Aziz al-Turi said Israeli forces arrived carrying weapons and batons to intimidate villagers in Al-Araqib before bulldozers tore down all the homes in the Negev village.

Israeli authorities also bulldozed homes and buildings on Thursday in the Negev village of Abu Qreinat, resident Maher Abu Qreinat told Ma'an.

The Israeli government in January approved the Prawer-Begin Bill, calling for the relocation of 30,000 - 40,000 Bedouin, the demolition of about 40 villages and the confiscation of more than 700,000 dunums of land in the Negev.

It was approved by parliament in a first reading in June, and two more votes on it are expected.

Lawyer Salem Abu Mdaghem on Thursday called for serious attention to the Prawer plan.

"Arabs of the Negev must deal with the Prawer plan more seriously by ignoring their problems and clashes and focusing on Prawer because this plan will not differentiate between any of them," he told Ma'an.

"What is needed is to form a popular committee to include all factions and national movements to set a struggle plan to raise the voices of people in Negev who reject the Prawer plan.

"Every day that passes without a reaction against this plan is a crisis day for the Negev and its people," the lawyer warned.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay slammed the bill in July, urging the Israeli government to reconsider its plans.

"If this bill becomes law, it will accelerate the demolition of entire Bedouin communities, forcing them to give up their homes, denying them their rights to land ownership, and decimating their traditional cultural and social life in the name of development," Pillay said.

There are about 260,000 Bedouin in Israel, mostly living in and around the Negev in the arid south. More than half live in unrecognized villages without utilities and many also live in extreme poverty.

The government has said it would "as much as possible" grant legal status to Negev villages that are currently unrecognized by the authorities if they met a minimum population criteria. But those criteria have never been stated.

A cabinet statement has said "most" residents -- who do not currently receive government or municipal services -- would be able to continue living in their homes after the villages are granted legal status.
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