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Israeli forces demolish multiple homes belonging to the same family in Bedouin village

Oct. 9, 2016 3:46 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 9, 2016 5:29 P.M.)
NEGEV (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces demolished multiple homes belonging to the same family in the Bedouin village of Bir Hadaj in the Negev desert of southern Israel on Sunday afternoon, according to locals.

Village resident Ayish Abu al-Asa told Ma'an that armed Israeli police forces arrived to the village in large numbers, surrounded and cordoned off the area for demolition, before allowing bulldozers to go in and demolish the homes.

Said al-Kharumi, secretary of the Higher Guidance Committee of Arab Residents in the Negev, a local committee dedicated to fighting Israeli government demolitions of Bedouin homes, told Ma’an that Sunday’s events represented " a violent and racist campaign” on the part of the Israeli government in the Negev.

“The campaign targeting the houses of the Abu Murayhil family west of Bir Hadaj [was carried out] in order to expel them from the area."

He added that "[Israeli] authorities are trying to impose their resolutions on the people there by force, demolition, and destruction."

"This racist, unjust policy to subdue our people in Bir Haddaj will fail, as prior attempts did. The houses will be built again and our people will continue to live with dignity on their land," al-Kharumi said.

It remained unclear what reason was provided, if at all, to the residents for the demolitions. It also remained unclear exactly how many structures were demolished, and how many members of the Abu Murayhil family were left homeless.

An Israeli police spokesperson told Ma’an he was unaware of the incidents.

Bir Hadaj and al-Araqib are two of 35 Bedouin villages considered “unrecognized” by Israel.

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in unrecognized villages.

Rights groups have claimed that the demolitions of homes and entire 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.

Indigenous rights groups have also pointed out that the transfer of the Bedouins into densely populated townships also removes them from their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyles which is dependent on access to a wide range of grazing land for their animals.

Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya released a report on the treatment of the Bedouin in the Negev back in 2011, shortly before the Israeli cabinet approved plans to relocate some 30,000 Bedouins from 13 unrecognized villages to government-approved townships, reporting that Bedouins in the permanent townships "rank on the bottom of all social and economic indicators and suffer from the highest unemployment rates and income levels in Israel."

While Bedouins of the Negev are Israeli citizens, the villages unrecognized by the government have faced relentless efforts by the Israeli authorities to expel them from their lands in order to make room for Jewish Israeli homes.

The classification of their villages as “unrecognized” prevents Bedouins from developing or expanding their communities, as their villages are considered illegal by Israeli authorities.

Israeli authorities have also refused to connect unrecognized Bedouin villages to the national water and electricity grids, while excluding the communities from access to health and educational services, and basic infrastructure.

The unrecognized Bedouin villages were established in the Negev soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that wrought 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, majority Jewish municipalities in the Negev continuously expand, with five new Jewish communities approved last year.

According to an investigation undertaken by Israeli rights groups ACRI and Bimkom, two of the approved settlements are located in areas where unrecognized Bedouin villages already exist.

The plan would see the displacement of at least 7,500 Bedouins from Bir Hadaj and Katamat, another unrecognized village.

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