NEGEV (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces demolished the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev region of southern Israel for the 110th time since 2010 on Thursday.
Israeli bulldozers escorted by Israeli police raided the village, which is "unrecognized" by Israeli authorities, in the morning and started the demolition, while Israeli police closed all entrances leading to the village.
“No matter how many times they demolish and destroy our village, they will not break our spirits,” local committee member Aziz Sayyah told Ma’an during the previous demolition raid. “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 Israeli citizenship have sharply increased since the beginning of 2017, including an Israeli police raid to evacuate the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran which turned deadly in January.
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.
Moreover, 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.
Al-Araqib residents have been ordered to pay more than 2 million shekels (approximately $541,000) for the cumulative cost of Israeli-enforced demolitions carried out against the village since 2010.
Indigenous rights groups have 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.