Israeli forces demolished the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev region of southern Israel for the 113th time since 2010 on May 17 morning, and for the fifth time this year. The head of the local council, Aziz al-Turi, told Ma'an News Agency that Israeli bulldozers accompanied by police forces raided the village and demolished the steel-structure makeshift homes "without any consideration for their residents." The last time Israeli forces razed homes in al-Araqib was only weeks ago, on April 25. "All demolition crimes will not scare us or stop us from rebuilding our homes and holding on to our lands," al-Araqib resident Sayyah al-Turi told Ma'an. "We will stay here despite the injustice and criminal demolitions, we will not submit to their plans of uprooting and displacing us."
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 sharply increased in 2017. An Israeli police raid to evacuate the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran turned deadly in January, and sparked widespread protests over the treatment of Palestinian citizens in Israel.
Right groups say that the demolition of 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.
The classification of their villages as "unrecognized" prevents Bedouins from developing or expanding their communities, while Israeli authorities have also refused to connect unrecognized Bedouin villages to the national water and electricity grids, and have excluded the communities from access to health and educational services.
Moreover, al-Araqib residents have been ordered to pay more than two million shekels (approximately $541,000) for the cumulative cost of Israeli-enforced demolitions carried out against the village since 2010.
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 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.
From Ma'an News Agency, May 17