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Israeli forces demolish Bedouin village of al-Araqib for 109th time

Feb. 8, 2017 12:02 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 8, 2017 10:22 P.M.)
NEGEV (Ma'an) -- Israeli bulldozers demolished the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev region of southern Israel on Wednesday for the 109th time.

Israeli forces raided the village early Wednesday, surrounding the residents' makeshift tents, and proceeded to raze them to ground.
 

Israeli forces also demanded that the residents pay 2 million shekels (approximately $532,750) for the cumulative cost of Israeli-enforced demolitions carried out against the village since the first time it was destroyed in 2010.

Palestinians who have built without Israeli-issued building permits, both inside and Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territory, have the choice of self-demolishing the unauthorized structures or paying hefty fines that cover the costs of Israeli forces demolishing the structures.
 

Local committee member Aziz Sayyah told Ma’an that they “demolished the village without considering the weather and the impact this will have on residents now made homeless.” The weather in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory remains cold, particularly during night hours.

“No matter how many times they demolish and destroy our village, they will not break our spirits,” Sayyah added. “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 full Israeli citizenship have been the target of widespread protests in recent weeks, after an Israeli police raid to evacuate the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran left two people killed.

While Bedouins of the Negev are Israeli citizens, the villages unrecognized by the government have faced relentless efforts by 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.

Rights groups have claimed that the demolition of al-Araqib and other 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 -- stating 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."

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.

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