Bulldozers backed by Israeli forces destroyed the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev Desert on July 2 for the 86th time in the last four years. "Israeli bulldozers forced their way into the village under the protection of dozens of Israeli forces," Attia al-Asam, who heads the regional council of "unrecognized" Bedouin communities in the Negev, told Turkey's Anadolu Agency. Israeli forces surrounded the village and displaced the population before demolishing the homes, the local leader added. Saleem Al-Wakili, a 57-year-old Bedouin resident, added: "It is the 86th time they destroyed my house and I will rebuild it tomorrow. The Israelis are trying to exile us from our land by demolishing our homes, but they will not succeed."
The Israeli government classifies approximately 40 villages in the Negev Desert as "unrecognized," claiming that the roughly 55,000 Bedouins living there cannot prove their ownership of the land. There are around 1.6 million Arabs in Israel, accounting for around 20% of the country's population. (MEM, July 2)
There is growing speculation that besides planning to build Jewish settlements in place of "unrecognized" Bedouin villages, Israel plans to clear some of these villages in order to use them as military training and exercise areas away from urban areas—or for its secretivenuclear program. Last month, Israel carried carried out tests at its Dimona nuclear research center in the Negev to gauge the damage caused by an detonation of a "dirty" radiological bomb, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz reported June 8. (MEM, June 8)