A woman and her child standing in front of their demolished home in Atir. (Shabtai Gold/IRIN)
'Dozens made homeless as police demolish Bedouin houses
Report, The Electronic IntifadaA
TIR (NEGEV DESERT)
At least 20 houses in two Bedouin-Arab villages were destroyed on 25 June by Israeli security forces, leaving over 150 people homeless.Some 1,500 police and special forces converged on the two small villages, which together have a population of about 1,000 people from the al-Qi'an family, and conducted the demolitions."The children went to school and the men to work. Only the women stayed home," said Azam al-Qi'an, aged 16, whose home was destroyed."Many, many police came. At around 8am they started coming," said Zahara, holding her three-year-old grandchild."When the police came in, they began pushing the women. They didn't give us a chance to get our belongings out of the house. They took everything out and confiscated it. Then the bulldozers started destroying [the houses]. When we protested, they called us whores."Bedouin living on land "illegally"The Israel Land Administration (ILA) says the villagers live on the land "illegally" and asked the courts for demolition orders in 2004.When the ILA went to court to get the villagers out, they said in their documents that the villagers were "trespassers" on "state land." Therefore, the ILA said, the villagers must be moved out.ILA spokeswoman Ortal Tzabar told IRIN that over the years the ILA had tried to reach deals with the villagers in return for their eviction, but the villagers rejected the deals.The villagers, for their part, have said they do not want to be sent to urban areas as the towns the state built for the Bedouins are basically townships and ghettos, with high crime and unemployment rates (among the highest in the country for both). They say some of them had agreed in the past few days to leave in return for compensation, but the ILA destroyed their homes before a deal could be finalized.They also said the ILA does not really want to give them compensation. Some said the compensation offered was too low, and that the land was worth much more."Nearly all the homes in Um Heiran have demolition orders hanging over them, and may yet be destroyed," said Souhad Bishara, a lawyer from Adalah -- an NGO that advocates the civil rights of Israel's Arab minority -- who represents some of the villagers.