RAMALLAH, July 28 (JMCC) - Israeli forces sought to erase a Bedouin village in the Negev that officials refuse to recognize as a legitimate community, demolishing some 40 houses and trees and displacing the village's 300 residents.
More than 50 military vehicles with hundreds of police gathered in the village of al-Arakib Tuesday, starting at noon to demolish the ramshackle homes.
They suddenly stormed the village and thousands of soldiers drove us out, not leaving any trace of our property, said Imad Abu Freih, spokesperson for the village's grassroots defense committee.
We have already begun to think how to rebuild, says Abu Freih. We will not surrender. Tents have been erected in the village to accommodate those made homeless.
The villagers have repeatedly requested that Israeli authorities recognize the community, which they say dates to before the creation of Israel
in 1948. Al-Arakib was once part of a vast Bedouin population, spreading over 14,000 square kilometers in the Negev desert.
Israel, however, argues that the villagers have other homes, and says it will expel any who return to the village. It has planned for a public forest to be planted on the grounds, zoned as public land.
Some 60 villages in the Negev are unrecognized by Israel. A leader of the Islamic movement in Israel charged authorities with demolishing the village in preparation to settle the Negev with Jewish residents.
The Israeli government is very concerned about the increase in the number of Arabs in the region, says Abbas Zakour. It is using all means to discourage them from having children and building. We are smelling the scent of a new displacement - possibly to the Palestinian state under discussion.
The Arab Monitoring Committee inside the Green Line issued a statement promising to rebuild the village. Friday prayers are planned to be held at the village in the coming week.
But local leaders took a regional view of the demolition.
This decision is not enough, said Zakour. Arab and Islamic countries must address the Judaization of our country.