Hundreds of Palestinians held a protest vigil at Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza on Thursday, January 20, in solidarity with the Palestinian citizens of Israel in al-Naqab (Negev) desert who were forcefully displaced from their homes in the name of “developing the area” to build settlements.
Hundreds of Bedouins living in villages such as al-Atrash, al-Sawa, al-Zarnouq, al-Ruwais, Khirbet Watan and Beir Haddaj in al-Naqab are facing imminent demolition of their houses as Jewish National Fund (JNF), a non-government body supported by the Israeli state, wants to plant trees on the lands in order to “develop” the region for further building of settlements.
Protesters on Thursday gathered at Beit Hanoun despite heavy rain and held banners denouncing Israel’s oppressive acts. They demanded the immediate halt of the forceful displacement of the Palestinians, Quds News Network reported.
The JNF is supported by the Israel Land Authority in its controversial afforestation plan. According to the JNF’s website, it wants to settle at least 500,000 people in the region after developing greenery and building other basic infrastructure. JNF members and Israeli security forces are being resisted by the local Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The villagers have been protesting against the demolition drive since last week. Heavily armed Israeli forces accompanied by bulldozers attacked these protesters, wounding hundreds. Hundreds of Palestinian activists and citizens, including several teenagers, have been arrested by the Israeli forces to suppress these protests. On Tuesday, 41 Palestinians were arrested, of whom 16 were charged for rioting on Thursday, Times of Israel reported.
The Higher Follow Up Committee of Arabs in the Negev, a local umbrella resistance group, has called for further protests and vigils in the region. They also called for a #save_naqab campaign on social media to make the protests international. On Wednesday, a protest against the Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in Sheikh Jarrah and in al-Naqab was organized in the US as well.
Pro-Palestine activists took part in a solidarity vigil in Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles in support of Palestinian communities who are facing forced displacement and violent attacks by the Israeli occupation.#save_naqab#FreePalestine🇵🇸❤️ pic.twitter.com/aYiFbJsc1Y
— PALESTINE ONLINE 🇵🇸 (@OnlinePalEng) January 19, 2022
Palestinians in the occupied territories of West Bank and East Jerusalem have also organized similar protests in solidarity with the Palestinians in al-Naqab.
Around 300,000 Palestinians live in the al-Naqab region. Nearly 100,000 of them live in 35 Bedouin villages which are not recognized by Israel and are treated as “squatters” despite them being settled in the region much before the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. These villages often face demolition of residential structures by the Israeli forces. They are also denied basic services such as water, sanitation, electricity, health centers and other public facilities.