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Evacuation of Bedouin village slated for demolition postponed following appeal

The Israeli government is demolishing the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran to make space for a Jewish town
Jeffry Smith/ i24news
Court approved removal of 750-1,000 Bedouin residents from village to enable construction of a Jewish town

The evacuation of a Bedouin village in the Negev desert that is slated for demolition was postponed at the last moment Tuesday following an appeal, Israel's Army Radio reports.

The Supreme Court approved in May 2015 the removal of 750-1,000 Bedouin residents with the Abu al-Qian tribe from the village of Umm al-Hiran to enable the construction of a Jewish town. The government announced on Monday that the demolitions would take place the following day.

The District Court in Be'er Sheva decided Tuesday that it will assess the situation regarding the continuation of the evacuation procedures after the village residents filed an appeal.

In a statement to i24news the Israel Lands Authority said that it would "take steps to execute the ruling according to the guidelines of the Execution Office and the law."

Earlier in the day Joint Arab List MK Basel Ghattas called the demolition of the village inhuman.

"These people will soon be thrown from their homes. This is beyond criminal. It's criminal, yes, but it's also inhuman." Ghattas told i24news after spending the night in the village with a number of other Joint Arab List MKs.

Community spokesman Attia el-Asam told i24news that the villagers are afraid for their future.

"They don’t know where to go or what to do," says el-Asam. "When the police take them out of here they wont have any houses in another location. The government hasn’t given them an alternative or a solution."

"I feel very sad, very angry because the government is demolishing this village," he continues. "Why? Because they want to build a Jewish settlement and they do it because the village is Bedouin."

This kind of government policy feels like racism, al-Asam says.

"I think that this is racism- part of the citizens, the state pushes them out, demolishes their houses and gives the other people everything. I want the government and the state to give all the people everything."

According to Human Rights Watch, the villagers say they were expelled from their land in 1948, when the state of Israel was established, and while they have been allowed to live there, Israel never recognized the village or approved a zoning plan for it.

In 2009, Israel approved plans for a Jewish village on the site, which means the Bedouins will be forced to relocate.

"The people have been living here for more than 60 years," el-Asam explains. "The government brought them here from where they were settled previously . The government told them 'this is your land and you can live here and here will be your village.'"

"This place is very big," he adds. "The settlement can be here and the village can be here. Why does the government want to take the villagers and throw them out, far from this place and their history?"

Amjad Iraqi, international advocacy coordinator of the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, told Al Jazeera that Umm al-Hiran is just one of many villages on the list to be demolished.

"The case of Umm al-Hiran encapsulates Israel's land policy - whether it's on the Israeli side of the Green Line or the occupied territories," Iraqi said.

"This village is one example of dozens of unrecognized villages in the Negev which are slated for destruction," he continued, adding "It comes at a time when there are many demolitions occurring in both unrecognized and newly recognized Bedouin villages."

Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told i24news that there were no plans for a big police presence and no barriers had been erected in or around the village, although an i24news reporter in the village said that protesters and international media were gathering.

In their statement the Israel Lands Authority explained that "for years, the state has been offering the Abu al-Qian tribe legally regulated plots in the town of Hura, including assistance in the development of the plots and monetary compensation." 

"Most of the tribespeople opted to move to Hura, where they enjoy health services, education, welfare services, proper infrastructure and social services," the statement continued. "A small part of the tribe members did not accept the state’s proposals and preferred to remain in dispersed settlements in illegal non-regulated structures." structures are illegal structures erected by the Ahmed Abu al-Qian family on state land, without permission.

The statement added that "the evacuated structures are illegal structures erected by the Ahmed Abu al-Qian family on state land, without permission."

Around 260,000 Bedouin live in Israel, more than half in unrecognized villages without utilities. Many live in extreme poverty.

i24news television reporter Jeff Smith contributed to this report


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