In the early hours of Tuesday morning Israeli Police demolished a whole Bedouin village in the Negev desert.
Approximately 1,500 Israeli forces were involved including Police, special riot forces, mounted officers and helicopters storming the village of Al-Araqib in a violent raid which began at 4.30am.
During the raid which demolished 40 homes, 300 residents were evicted including 200 children, whilst simultaneously fruit orchards and olive grove trees were uprooted.
A spokesman for the Israeli police, Rosenfeld, said that the operation implemented a court ruling evicting the residents after an 11-year trial. However the Bedouin residents of the village of Al-Araqib actually won the court battle, overturning the decision to demolish the village by proving that ownership of the land was in question.
The way Israeli police spokesman Rosenfeld described the operation was that ‘30 small sheds were taken down.’
The demolitions were facilitated by the Israeli government to make way for a forest sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The JNF claims ‘Its leadership meets with regional councils to assess community needs and to develop solutions’.
The Bedouin however tell a different story… the residents of the village were evicted by Israel in 1951, but returned to the land shortly after.
In a statement the residents of Al-Araqib say: ‘Residents of Al-Araqib are neither squatters nor invaders: their village has existed many years before the creation of Israel in 1948’.
Hamas has condemned the demolition of the village calling for an international stand against a ‘policy of rights violations.’ Hamas spokesman for the northern Gaza Strip Abdul Latif Al-Qanoua said the demolitions displaced hundreds of people. The move, he said, was a ‘violation of Palestinian human rights and the rights of innocent citizens.’
He said the event highlighted an Israeli policy of racism and a larger aim to clear out Palestinian villages and towns noting the similarity to the Israeli policy of home demolitions in East Jerusalem and areas near settlements in the West Bank.
Hamas leader Al-Qanoua said: ‘The occupation has continued the destruction of Palestinian villages in the Negev for more than 40 years’. He went on to demand that the international community take a stand against ‘Israeli arrogance’ and what he described as a belief that Israel could act with impunity.
Many of Gaza’s almost 1,000,000 refugees have roots in the Negev, as well as seaside towns cleared of their Palestinian populations in 1948 when Israel was declared a state. Activists who were present during the demolition described Tuesday’s attack as ‘an act of war, such as is undertaken against an enemy’.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned ministers during a cabinet meeting a day earlier that people like the Bedouins have to be dealt with to stop them claiming national rights. He said: ‘A situation in which a demand for national rights will be made from some quarters inside Israel, for example in the Negev, should the area be left without a Jewish majority. Such things happened in the Balkans, and it is a real threat.’
Activists said the flattening of the village of Al-Araqib could not be ‘dissociated’ from Netanyahu’s remarks and said presenting the Bedouin citizens of Israel as a threat, ‘gives legitimacy to the expulsion of Israel’s Bedouin citizens from the Negev in order to ‘Judaize’ it.
Half of the Bedouin in Israel live in ‘unrecognised villages’ and have no access to municipal or government funding, assistance or electricity and water.
Estimates suggest the Bedouin comprise 12 per cent of the Palestinian population in Israel.
• The Israeli forces are considering establishing a special training school for new units of spies that can go into an area ahead of an invasion to relay real time information about the ‘enemy’ back to tank brigades. The reconnaissance units are known as Palsar and currently exist in the 401st Armoured Brigade as well as the 7th Armoured Brigade.
Israeli forces are considering the establishing a third Palsar unit, for the 188th Armoured Brigade. The units operate by going into an area ahead of an invasion, their job is to provide intelligence that can be immediately acted upon and also to locate ‘enemy’ positions and open up routes for armoured columns.
When Palsar units were first created a couple of decades ago unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or ‘drones’ did not exist.
Unmanned drones are currently used to do the job that Palsars were originally created for, collecting information on current ‘enemy’ positions and the best routes that tanks can take during an invasion.
A high ranking officer in the Israeli forces said: ‘If a commander has a choice between sending Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to scout out over the hill or the Palsar, he will prefer the UAV and not put soldiers’ lives at risk.
‘This does not mean that Palsar units are no longer needed. Palsar units are needed particularly on the future battlefield, which will likely be inside an urban setting filled with improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
‘Palsar units will be needed in such a setting to assist tanks in identifying the enemy inside homes and ensuring the survivability of the armoured vehicles.’
The Israeli forces have also decided to launch a new specialised unit that is specifically trained for fighting Palestinians in Gaza. The Israeli forces got driven out of Gaza during their onslaught in December 2008/January 2009 in their attack dubbed ‘Operation Cast Lead’.
Despite the Israelis murdering over 1,400 men, women and children, using illegal phosphorous bombs, helicopter gunships, armoured tanks and thousands of Israeli soldiers to destroy homes and indiscriminately kill any Palestinian they met, the Palestinians of Gaza managed to drive them out.
As a result the Israelis now want to create a new unit, which has yet to be named that will train for the specific conditions of Gaza.
The special training will include combat in desert conditions, such as those in Gaza, as well as in uncovering tunnels and booby-traps in urban settings such as Gaza’s towns and refugee camps.