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Israeli bulldozers enter Bedouin town in Negev, prepare for demolitions

Aug. 2, 2017 4:33 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 2, 2017 7:36 P.M.)
Bedouin woman sits in front of the ruins of her family house in the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev Desert in 2010 (AFP Photo/David Buimovitch, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli bulldozers entered the Bedouin village of Bir Hadaj in the Negev of southern Israel on Wednesday in preparations for a number of demolitions expected to be carried out there, according to Palestinian media.

Local sources told Arab48 media site that Israeli authorities intend to demolish six houses belonging to the Abu Marhil family, which house more than 50 people, for the fourth time.

Israeli authorities claim that the homes were built on Israeli “state land,” according to Arab48, in what is presumably an area designated for the construction of a new Jewish town in the Negev, whose plans were approved in 2015.

Local committee member Salman Abu Hamid told Arab48 that the situation was “hopeless” and that Israeli authorities have attempted to “intimidate” the residents in order to transfer them to a township established by the Israeli government for Bedouin residents of the Negev with the ultimate goal of “taking over all the lands.”

Abu Hamid noted that the village would be continued to be rebuilt each time the Israeli army demolishes it.

According to Arab48, Israeli forces have demolished more than 1,000 homes in Bir Hadaj, which has a population of some 6,000 residents, since 2016.

News of the pending demolitions came a day following Israel’s demolition of the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev region for the 116th time since 2010.

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.

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in unrecognized villages, which, in addition to lack of access to basic services, have been the targets of repeated demolitions.

Bir Hadaj was officially recognized by the Israeli state in 2004, and was provided with municipal services, such as electricity, running water, healthcare, and education -- services that Israeli authorities have refused to extend to the unrecognized villages.

However, even after its official recognition by Israeli authorities, the town has continued to face routine demolitions, as their town is located partly on the site of a planned all-Jewish town in the Negev.

According to a 2015 ACRI report, the Israeli Neve Gurion settlement has been approved for construction on part of the land of Bir Hadaj.

“This decision is a mere continuation of the government’s unequal planning policy, which attempts to move the inhabitants of Bedouin villages to urban or semi-urban settlements or existing townships, which are ranked at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder and are already under significant stress,” ACRI noted in the report.

“At the same time, the state is allowing for the establishment of more and more small communities designated for Jews.”

ACRI added that the plan was meant to “aggravate the situation” of the Bedouins in the Negev, rather than providing a solution. The plan “discriminates against the Bedouin community in violation of their rights to equality, dignity and shelter,” the group added.

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."

According to rights groups, Bedouin communities have continued to face these same discriminatory policies some six years later.
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