More clashes erupt in the Negev desert as Israeli forces demolish Bedouin homes

Published January 18th, 2017 - 03:00 GMT
Israeli policemen stand guard as bulldozers demolish homes in Bedouin villages. (AFP/File)
Israeli policemen stand guard as bulldozers demolish homes in Bedouin villages. (AFP/File)

Clashes broke out anew Wednesday morning between Israeli police and Palestinian Bedouin residents of the village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev region of southern Israel, hours after Israeli police shot dead Palestinian citizen of Israel Yaqoub Moussa Abu al-Qian while he was driving near clashes.

Israeli police arrived to the village before dawn on Wednesday morning to demolish 12 houses in the Bedouin village, as locals, activists, and Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset gathered to resist the demolitions. Knesset member Ayman Odeh and head of the Joint List was hospitalized for a head and back injury after he was shot with sponge-tipped bullets.

Amid the clashes, Israeli police opened fire on a vehicle after they claimed the driver intended to carry out a "terrorist attack" on police, though numerous eyewitness accounts said that al-Qian lost control of his vehicle after he was shot, causing him to crash into Israeli police, one of whom was killed.

At around noon, renewed clashes erupted as Israeli bulldozers began razing the homes to the ground.
Residents crowded and hurled stones at Israeli police officers who showered the demonstrators with tear gas to disperse them.

Palestinian MK Osama Saadi was lightly injured in the leg and was taken to Soroka hospital in Beersheva for treatment, according to the Joint List,

In addition, Israeli police officers denied a number of Palestinian Knesset members entry into the village. Among them were MK Ahmad Tibi and Hanin Zoubi. Israeli police prevented hundreds of vehicles from entering the village as residents were seen evacuating belongings from their homes ahead of the demolitions.

Palestinian MK Jamal Zahalqa urged the Israeli government to pull out police and avoid using force. A solution could be reached, he told reporters, by dialogue in a way that shows respect to the residents of Umm al-Hiran.
The demolitions came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly instructed officials to work towards issuing demolition orders against Palestinian homes in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem, reacting to an Israel Supreme Court ruling to demolish the illegal Israeli Amona outpost constructed in the occupied West Bank in violation of both Israeli and international law.

"There will be no double standards regarding construction," Israeli media quoted Netanyahu as saying. "There will be equal enforcement of the law in Israel for both Jews and Arabs."

Earlier in December, Netanyahu commented on the impending demolition of Amona by assuring the soon-to-be displaced settlers that he would commit to "enforcing laws" on "illegal construction" in Israel, referring primarily to Palestinian communities that are forced to build without Israeli-issued building permits.

Bedouin communities in the Negev said a wave of home demolitions there last month came as a direct retaliation from the decision to evacuate of Amona, while Israel's Jerusalem municipality also vowed to demolish scores of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem as a result of the ruling.

Last week, Israeli forces demolished 11 homes belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel in the city of Qalansawe in central Israel, sparking clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police, with Amnesty International Israel condemning possible human rights violations and accusing Israeli forces of acting on "political motives."

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in unrecognized villages.

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.

The Joint List released a statement Wednesday, accusing Israeli police of lying to Israeli media when they claimed Abu al-Qian intended to carry out a "terror attack" when he was killed, in order to distract from Israel's campaign to establish Jewish-only towns "on the ruins of Bedouin villages."

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