In the early morning hours of November 12, hundreds of Israeli police stormed the recognized Bedouin village of Bir Hadaj. The police officers were accompanied by representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Interior, who attempted to distribute home demolition orders to village residents.
Israeli police in Bir Hadaj (Photo: Adalah)
In Bir Hadaj, the Israeli police used tactics usually saved for the occupied Palestinian territories, including the use of undercover forces disguised as Arabs, known as Mistaravim in Hebrew, whose goal it is to create provocations and incur a violent response from the Israeli security forces.
Indeed, soon after their arrival in Bir Hadaj, the Israeli police fired tear gas, and rubber and sponge bullets at residents, injuring many people, including women, children and the elderly. 19 residents --including 7 minors-- were arrested in the clashes that ensued, and 29 children were subsequently taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva to be treated for tear gas inhalation.
Israeli police weapons in the schoolyard, Bir Hadaj
This wasn’t the first time that the Israeli authorities have used extreme violence in Bir Hadaj. Similar, though less severe, instances of violence also occurred on October 11 and September 27, when Israeli police officers fired tear gas and sponge bullets and injured numerous residents.
NCF would like to draw these destructive events to your attention, as it seems clear that Israel is moving forward rapidly with its plan to forcibly evict 30,000 Bedouin citizens from their homes and villages in the Negev.
Israeli medical staff treat children for their injuries, Bir Hadaj
It is also apparent that the Israeli authorities are prepared to use egregious levels of force to carry out these demolitions and evictions. In September and October, we witnessed dozens of home demolitions in Bedouin communities in the Negev, and an increase in police violence during this destruction.
Tactics used regularly by the Israeli army in the occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem are now being used inside the Green Line against citizens of the state. This reality demonstrates the fact that the Israeli government doesn’t view the Bedouin as full citizens.
NCF has written letters to the Israeli Ministry of Education - condemning the attacks on the school in Bir Hadaj and injuries of village children - and to the Israeli Ministry of Internal Security, questioning the use of undercover Israeli police officers whose sole job it was to create a provocation in the village.
Dozens of weapons used in Bir Hadaj
One of the most important ways to prevent further escalations in violence is to apply strong pressure on Israel to abandon its destructive policies towards Bedouin citizens of the state and respect the rights of Bedouin communities in the Negev. NCF urges you to publicly condemn the Israeli authorities’ actions, urge the government to investigate the recent string of violence, and clearly tell the Israeli authorities that violence like that witnessed in Bir Hadaj will not be tolerated.
Executive Director, Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality