Al-Naqab (The Inside Palestine)- Israeli occupation forces earlier on Sunday bulldozed large tracts of Palestinian lands in Um Batin and Tel as-Sabi in the Naqab desert, south of 1948-occupied Palestine.
Earlier today, local sources said, Israeli occupation forces escorted bulldozers to the area and started bulldozing Palestinian lands in Um Batin and Tel as-Sabi. The forces also prevented lands’ owners and other supporters from entering the lands.
Local sources also said the bulldozing works in the area are expected to continue for nearly a month.
Lately, the Al-Naqab Desert villages have been under the Israeli threat of demolition and bulldozing works.
Last month, for over three days, hundreds of peaceful Palestinians took part in large demonstrations in several villages of the Al-Naqab against Israel’s demolition and bulldozing works in their lands.
The Higher Follow Up Committee of Arabs in the Naqab, a local umbrella body that represents Palestinians in the area, also announced a general strike in response to the Israeli demolitions.
“We took the decision to undertake proactive measures, beginning with adopting a cumulative resistance programme over a period of six months that will lead to a regional general strike and a massive demonstration outside the prime minister’s office, and the internationalisation of the issue to expose the racist practices [of Israeli authorities] before international institutions,” the committee said in a statement.
The general strike was announced in villages facing the threat of Israeli demolition including al-Atrash, al-Sawa, al-Zarnouq, al-Ruwais, Beir Haddaj and Khirbet Watan.
However, the Israeli occupation forces stormed the Palestinian villages in the Al-Naqab desert and started violently attacking and arresting the peaceful protesters who gathered to denounce the demolition work.
The Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters and sound bombs directly and intensively towards the protesters to disperse them, resulting in the suffocation of dozens of them due to gas inhalation.
They also used skunk water cannons to disperse the nonviolent protesters.
This all started on January 9, when the Jewish National Fund (JNF) began several days of the so-called “planting trees” on disputed land in the Al-Naqab.
For over three days, the Israeli bulldozers carried out demolitions on lands of local Bedouins used for cultivation.
The forces closed off the villages and prevented the residents from entering their lands. Thus, the Palestinian residents moved their protests to the entrance of the villages.
During and following the protests, Israeli forces arrested over 140 Palestinians from the Al-Naqab, including minors.
The Israeli demolitions in al-Naqab are part of a controversial Israeli plan, led by the JNF, to plant trees across some 40,000 dunams (15 square miles) of the Naqab.
In December, Israeli forces attacked Palestinians in six villages: al-Mashash, al-Zarnouq, Bier al-Hamam, al-Ruwais, al-Gharaa, and Khirbet Watan, destroying crops and excavating soil.
The JNF and the Israel Land Authority (ILA) were planning to plant hundreds of trees on lands from the six Bedouin villages, which had all received demolition orders and faced the displacement of thousands of residents “in the name of developing the area.”
‘Israel’ has used the forestation projects as a tactic for land grabs and to prevent Palestinians from returning to lands from which they have been displaced.
The residents say that such policies are an attempt to pressure them into being internally displaced despite Bedouins having lived on or near these lands prior to Israel’s establishment in 1948.
There are almost 100,000 Palestinians live in 35 Bedouin villages in the Al-Naqab and are all unrecognized by the Israeli occupation government who views the Bedouin residents of these villages as illegal squatters and does not provide them with basic services or infrastructure, including electricity, water, sewage systems, roads, schools or hospitals.