Israeli forces storm Palestinian villages in the Negev/Naqab, destroy crops

Israeli forces storm Al-Ruwais, a Palestinian village deemed illegal by the Israeli government, in the Negev-Naqab, in the south of the country (Screengrab)

Mustafa Abu Sneineh

Middle East Eye  /  December 29, 2021

Police deploy military vehicles, dogs and horse units, and bulldozers amid a campaign against development of ‘unrecognized’ Bedouin villages.

Israeli forces are carrying out a campaign of destruction in several Palestinian villages in the southern Negev desert this week, destroying crops and tilling land in areas traditionally cultivated by Bedouins that authorities insist is not theirs to develop.

Israeli police confronted Palestinian citizens of Israel in six villages – Al-Mashash, Al-Zarnouq, Bir al-Hamam, Al-Ruwais, Al-Gharaa, and Khirbet Watan – where almost 30,000 Palestinian live in the Negev, known to Palestinians as Al-Naqab.

On Wednesday morning, the Atrash family in Al-Ruwais village had their crops destroyed and soil excavated by Israeli police and special forces.

An eyewitness told local media that dozens of Israeli security forces stormed the village for the third consecutive day, deploying military vehicles, dog and horse units, and bulldozers in the early hours.

Israeli forces assaulted residents of Al-Ruwais with clubs, shoved some protesters, and arrested Majed al-Asam, a local resident.

The Israeli government considers the six Palestinian villages “unrecognized,” and therefore they are under threat of demolition.

Al-Araqib, one of the 35 unrecognized Palestinian villages in the Naqab, has been demolished 196 times by Israeli forces.

There are almost 100,000 Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship living in these 35 unrecognized villages.

They are part of 300,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel living in Negev towns, concentrated to the east of Road 40, which cuts Israel’s southern territory in half.

Israel claims that Palestinians have no right to lands of unrecognized villages. It has deployed “Green Police” units to prohibit them from planting seasonal fruits and vegetables and limit their cattle-grazing areas.

Unrecognized villages are denied any infrastructure or support from the government. There are no means of transportation, no roads, no schools, and Israeli authorities don’t collaborate with their local leadership.

Residents say such policies are an attempt to pressure them into being internally displaced despite Bedouins having lived on or near these lands prior to Israel’s establishment in 1948.

Al-Mashash, Al-Zarnouq, Bir al-Hamam, Al-Ruwais, Al-Gharaa and Khirbet Watan are all east of the Israeli city of Bir Sheva, which acts as the Negev’s capital.

Khirbet Watan’s residents have protested several times since 2020 against house demolitions and evacuation orders in the village, where 4,000 Bedouins live.

Mustafa Abu Sneineh – journalist, poet and staff writer at Middle East Eye