At dawn today, January 12, 2022, Israeli bulldozers and combat-ready soldiers raided the Palestinian village of Al-Atrash in the Naqab desert in southern 1948 Palestine [present-day Israel]. For the third day in a row, Israeli bulldozers have been bulldozing large swathes of land belonging to Palestinians from the village.
The escalated ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Al-Atrash is part of a scheme that is being implemented jointly by both the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and Israel’s Land Authority.
As a response to this, Palestinians from Al-Atrash and the surrounding areas have been protesting for three days now in an attempt to stop the seizure of their land.
Hardly surprising, Israeli colonial forces are brutally suppressing the protests. At the moment of writing this article, Israeli forces arrested nine protesters after violently assaulted them.
Yesterday, Tuesday, January 11, Palestinian residents of Al-Atrash sat up a sit-in tent in the site Israel seeks to demolish and take over. In addition to this, Palestinians carried out a strike in different areas in the Naqab, including the villages of Al-Atrash, Sa’wah, BeirHadaj, Al-Zarnouq, Al-Rwayyis and Khirbet Al-Watan.
To stop Palestinians from thwarting its ethnic cleansing scheme, Israeli soldiers stormed the tent, destroyed it and assaulted the protesters. Eighteen people were arrested in yesterday’s raid.
Others were injured as the soldiers hurled tear gas canisters and sound grenades at the protesters.
Yet, the intensified Israeli brutality only encourages Palestinians to protest more. Community leaders and organizers in the Naqab are calling for a mass protest and a strike to take place tomorrow.
Unrecognizing Palestinian existence in the Naqab
The village of Al-Atrash is one of 35 unrecognized villages in the Naqab by the Israeli colonial authorities. Roughly 100, 000 Palestinians holding a third-class Israeli citizenship live in these villages.
By unrecognizing them, Israel denies Palestinians who live there the basic services like health centers, schools, water, electricity and sewage infrastructure. Israel also denies the residents of the villages construction permits, where their homes are constantly demolished or under the threat of demolition at any moment.
In addition to Al-Atrash, the village of Al-Araqeeb is another perfect example of Israeli malicious practices and policies against the so-called unrecognized villages. So far, the Israeli authorities have demolished Al-Araqeeb more than 190 times.
This coercive environment Palestinians are forced to live in serves Israeli plans to expand Jewish settlement in the Naqab.
On the ruins of these villages, the Israeli authorities, through the JNF seek to plant trees of injustice, apartheid and colonization. 45, 000 dunams of ethnically cleansed land will be afforested by the JNF.
The JNF calls this ethnic cleansing campaign the Blueprint Negev. Through the Blueprint Negev Campaign, the JNF falsely promotes an image of the Naqab as an empty, barren land that needs revitalization to be inhabited by people, mainly Jews.
The aim of this project is to replace Palestinian owners of the land in the Naqab with 500, 000 new Jewish settlers and JNF trees.
Palestinians, regardless of the legal framework subjugating them are currently facing the same forcible displacement practices by the Israeli occupation authorities in different parts of Historic Palestine. In addition to the Naqab, the existence of Palestinians is criminalized and threatened in the South Hebron Hills (SHH) and the Jordan Valley.
Today, Israeli bulldozers raided Al-Fakheet in the SHH and demolished five residential tents, a water well and two animal shacks there.
In the Bedouin community of Ibziq in the Jordan Valley, more than 40 people are homeless now after the Israeli occupation forces demolished their homes in December 28.