BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian residents of several unrecognized Bedouin villages in southern Israel protested on Sunday against Israeli policies of home demolitions in their area.
The Higher Guidance Committee for Arab Residents of Negev organized the protest, where demonstrators held signs condemning the escalation of demolitions in the past three weeks, during which time more than 60 homes were destroyed.
Protesters condemned the “direct incitement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” against their communities, and urged people to continue the fight against what they have called “racist policies” against them, and to “refuse all incitements against Arab citizens [of Israel].”
The protest was one of what the committee said will be a series of protests to be conducted in the southern Israeli Negev desert in upcoming weeks.
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, the committee organized two marches in the Negev region to protest the ongoing demolition campaign targeting Palestinian homes in the area, especially during winter when families are left homeless in the cold weather.
According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in villages unrecognized by Israeli authorities.
Most Bedouin villages were established in the Negev soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war following the creation of the state of Israel when many 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.
Rights groups have claimed that the demolitions in 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.
According a report by Israeli news website Haaretz, the number of Palestinian buildings demolished by Israel in the first week of 2017 was almost four times as high as the weekly average of 20 structures in 2016.
In 2015, Israeli forces demolished an average of 10 Palestinian structures a week, according UN numbers.