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Israeli court rules to displace Um al-Hiran Bedouins

March 7, 2016 10:18 P.M. (Updated: March 8, 2016 5:44 P.M.)
NEGEV (Ma'an) -- An Israeli court on Sunday ruled that the Bedouin community of Um al-Hiran in the Negev in southern Israel is illegal, on the grounds that the community settled on state lands, Israeli media reported.

"The state is the owner of the lands in dispute," Israeli daily Haaretz quoted Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein as writing. "The residents have acquired no rights to the land but have settled them [without any authorization], which the state cancelled legally."

Israeli planning authorities intend to build a "new town for Jewish residents in its place," Haaretz reported.

On Monday, Israeli authorities reportedly entered farm lands used by Um al-Hiran residents with the intentions of destroying crops, but residents were able to prevent forces from beginning the demolition.

Raed Abu al-Qian, a well-known activist in the area, said the move "came to increase pressure on the residents and to make home demolitions easy in the village," following the Israeli court ruling.

Said al-Khroumi, a member of the Higher Guidance Committee of Arab Residents of Negev, said Israeli forces' presence at the village was "a heinous and barbarian aggression against the village and its residents."

He also called for anyone able to travel to Um al-Hiran to visit the village "show solidarity."

Bedouin member of the Israeli Knesset Talab Abu Arar accused Israeli Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel of creating "a secret government committee" aimed at destroying the crops of Palestinian villages in Israel.

According to Abu Arar, the "secret committee" recommended that Palestinian villages in the Negev be emptied, and residents removed.

"This is a special Israeli form of ethnic cleansing," Abu Arar continued.

Abu Arar highlighted that Israeli authorities destroyed crops in the villages of Attir, Hurah and Saawah during the past several days.

Residents of Um al-Hiran and nearby villages are among tens of thousands of Bedouins living in the Negev face ongoing displacement.

While a plan to forcibly resettle the area's Bedouin population -- the Prawer Plan -- was shelved in 2014, Israel’s Habayit Hayehudi party joined Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau’s coalition last year on the condition the plan was reinstated.

The Um al-Hiran community -- around 700 strong -- was never recognized by the Israeli government and residents' lands were claimed by the state in 2013 in order to make way for the expansion of the Beersheba metropolitan area.
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