JERUSALEM (JTA) — Some 45 illegal structures reportedly were demolished in an unrecognized Bedouin village in southern Israel.
About 1,300 police officers oversaw the demolition Tuesday by the Israel Land Administration in al-Arakib, near Rahat.
Ownership of the land is the subject of proceedings in the Beersheva District Court.
Activists and volunteers arrived from across Israel to join in nonviolent resistance, according to a coalition of organizations supporting the village.
The al-Arakib village existed for many years before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. Residents who were evicted by Israel in 1951 returned to the land; their families are now living and farming there.
In a statement, the coalition claimed that the Jewish National Fund wants to plant a forest on the site. It called the village’s demolition a "criminal act."
"Bedouin citizens of Israel are not enemies, and forestation of the Negev is not a reasonable pretext for destroying a community which is more than 60 years old, dispossessing its residents, and violating the basic rights of hundreds of Israeli civilians, men, women and children," the statement said.
Shlomo Tziser, an official with the Land Administration’s Southern District, said that "the people who live here have homes in Rahat and Kfar Kassem," Ynet reported. "We are implementing a verdict for the evacuation of the area which has passed all legal instances. Today we shall evacuate them, and should they return we’ll do it again."