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Two killed in Bedouin village slated to be demolished, replaced with Jewish town

Police shoot MK Ayman Odeh in the head with sponge-tipped bullet. Conflicting versions emerge of ‘car ramming’ and shooting that left one officer and a village resident dead.

By Yael Marom and Keren Manor

Israeli police run toward the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Israeli police run toward the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Two people were killed and several others wounded when large numbers of police officers entered the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in southern Israel, to demolish the village at dawn on Wednesday. Police fired tear gas, sponge-tipped bullets, and there were reports of live ammunition as well.

Police officers shot and killed a resident of Umm el-Hiran, Yaqub Musa Abu Qi’an, claiming he drove his vehicle and struck and killed at least one officer. Police also quickly claimed, without offering any evidence, that Abu Qi’an had “connections” to ISIS. The police officer who was killed was named as 34-year-old Erez Levy.

However, local residents and activists at the scene deny the police version of events, saying that Qi’an’s car veered toward the officers only after he was shot and lost control of the vehicle.

Among those wounded was Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh, who police shot in the head and back with sponge-tipped bullets. Odeh was brought to Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva in stable condition at the time of this report. The other casualties were both local residents and security forces.

MK Ayman Odeh lies wounded from sponge-tipped bullets next to Israeli police in the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran, Negev, January 18, 2017. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

MK Ayman Odeh lies wounded from sponge-tipped bullets next to Israeli police in the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran, Negev, January 18, 2017. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

 

Hundreds of fully armed police arrived at Umm el-Hiran around 5 a.m., pulling drivers out of vehicles, and attacking and threatening others, according to Israeli activist Kobi Snitz, who was in the village Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Police enter the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Police enter the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Shortly thereafter, shots were heard, Snitz said, adding that he saw a white pickup truck about 30 meters from police. “They started shooting at the car in bursts from all directions,” he said, adding that only after the driver appeared to have been wounded and lost control of his vehicle did it strike the police officers.

Police reportedly sealed the village off and barred any additional journalists from entering by mid-morning.

Israeli police positioned on a rooftop in Umm el-Hiran with their guns trained, January 18. 2017. (Isaac Kates Rose)

Israeli police positioned on a rooftop in Umm el-Hiran with their guns trained, January 18. 2017. (Isaac Kates Rose)

Snitz said that state authorities had been pressuring residents to sign an agreement to leave voluntarily up until around midnight Tuesday night, but that negotiations broke down.

MK Odeh showed up at Umm el-Hiran early Wednesday morning in order to stand alongside the villagers, who were told by Israeli authorities that the demolition would take place imminently.

By late morning, bulldozers, trucks, and demolition equipment had begun preparing to clear and demolish the village.

Women from Umm el-Hiran surround a home slated for demolition in the village. (Isaac Kates Rose)

Women from Umm el-Hiran surround a home slated for demolition in the village. (Isaac Kates Rose)

Umm al-Hiran is one of dozens of so-called “unrecognized villages” in Israel’s south, in which approximately 100,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel live without electricity, water, and other basic services the state refuses to provide.

Here is a quick summary of this history of Umm al-Hiran: Long before the establishment of the State of Israel, members of the Abu Qi’an family lived in an area called Khirbet Zubaleh.

In 1956, the Israeli military government forcibly moved the Qi’an family to the location where they live today. (Their former land was given to Kibbutz Shoval as agricultural land.)

A Bedouin woman enters a tin shack in the unrecognized village of Umm el-Hiran, the Negev. November 22, 2016. Residents expected Israeli authorities to demolish the entire village a few hours earlier. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

A Bedouin woman enters a tin shack in the unrecognized village of Umm el-Hiran, the Negev. November 22, 2016.(Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

This forced land “swap” is well documented in state archives, but despite the fact that the Qi’an family was settled in its current location by the state itself, its homes have never been connected to the electricity or water grids.

In 2015 Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the state can change its mind and take back the land it gave to the al-Qi’an family. In place of their current village, Umm el-Hiran, from which they are to be expelled, a new township for religious Jews will be established.

Residents of the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran waiting the Supreme Court's decision on the village's case, Jerusalem, November 20, 2013.

Residents of the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran wait for a High Court decision on their village’s case, Jerusalem, November 20, 2013.

For the past few years, Jewish Hiran’s future residents have been waiting for their new homes at an encampment in the adjacent forest of Yatir.

“The government has no problem with Jewish citizens living on this property – so why should they have a problem with us?” Raed Abu al-Qi’an, a resident and activist from the village, told +972 in 2015. “They allow rural communities to be built for Jews across the Negev – why not us?”

“We have always said, and continue to say, that we have no objections to Jewish families living here or nearby us – but not in place of us. That is racism and injustice,” he added.

Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man and Eli Bitan contributed to this report. A version of this article also appears in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Hoping for Peace

      Killing a resident and threatening a politician!!!
      What next land thrives??
      With all respect to my Jews friends I hate those religious smelly orthodox ones who are stealing lands all over occupied Palestine!

      Reply to Comment
    2. carmen

      ‘Police reportedly sealed the village off and barred any additional journalists from entering by mid-morning’ after they killed Yaqub. Was this also after they shot MK Odeh twice? Like Greg said, ‘by hitting Odeh they have changed the game’. Looking forward to seeing how this is handled by netanyahoo and co.

      Reply to Comment
    3. dror

      biased coverage.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Isy levi

      According to several radio stations, Odeh has been injured by a stone thrown by the protesters. If the village is not legal according to the law I do not understand what is the problem. I am a Swiss citizen. If I build a house here without authorization, I will have to go to the court, pay a penalty and my illegal house will be destroyed.

      Reply to Comment
      • John

        in switzerland the gov’t probably gives building permits to most, if not all, citizens who ask. in israeli occupied territories ~98% of palestinian building permits are denied upfront. therefore ~98% of their buildings are ‘illegal’.

        Reply to Comment
        • Isy levi

          It is very difficult here in Switzerland to have a building permit. It often takes years and years. If you build an illegal house, you will have to go to the court and even to jail. If you build a village….. On the other hand, when the State decides to build a highway, a road or a train station, the land is taken with small compensation according to the Swiss law.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Oh for crying out loud, Levi, the Swiss don’t give all the permits to German speakers and deny them to French and Italian speakers, nor do they give 98% of the permits to Christians and deny them to Jews. Are you really this obtuse about this or are you just working extra hard to appear that way?

            Reply to Comment
    5. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Do not forget that an innocent policeman has been killed.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Itshak: I’ve noticed that when Jews are harmed it’s always innocent individual Jews who suffer, but when Palestinians are harmed it’s just an case of punishment for belonging to a defective society.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Ben

      The picture of Odeh will live in infamy. Israel is one the world’s most racist states. And most hypocritical. It treats non-Jews in ways it would never ever treat Jews. Ever. At the same time it says “Jewish state? What’s the problem? We can be trusted to do it right.” All of this because some Jews felt themselves too pure to live next to Arab neighbors, and so the Arabs had to be forcibly torn from their homes of sixty years. (And yet if you dare remove a single element from a trailer park in Amona, the Israeli government will turn somersaults of indignation and gush histrionic empathy and fountains of cash for the poor, poor settlers.) One has not seen scenes like this in the United States since Bull Connor turned fire hoses and police attack dogs on civil rights protesters in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. This is the Israeli Jewish idea of being neighbors? Remember what James Zogby pointed out in the article on Jerusalem. “Their lands have been confiscated to make way for Jewish only colonies (now euphemistically termed neighborhoods).”

      Reply to Comment
    7. i_like_ike52

      Kind of reminds me of some earlier events
      (1) When the Israeli government decided to destroy the Jewish communities in Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip in order to allow Arab towns to be built where the Jews had set up their communities on what had been empty sand dunes, the Israelis who supported the move said they had no sympathy for the Jews of Gush Katif who were protesting the move. After all, they were only being asked to “change addresses”. Just like this case, where the Beduins, like the Gush Katif residents, are being provided with alternative locations to live.
      (2) When Olmert’s government decided to use massive force to remove the Jews living in the Amona settlement in 2006, passive resisters, many of them high school girls, were severely beaten in the head by truncheons. Knesset member Ayreh Eldad was beaten and his arm broken. I am curious…are those who are protesting this act in the Negev also upset what was done at Gush Katif and Amona?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        At Gush Katif the government decided there were strategic national reasons to withdraw the settlements from there. At Umm el-Hiran there is no strategic reason to remove the residents, there is only pure Jewish supremacism. Huge difference.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ray

        The Israeli government, and the population that voted for it, are doing what they always do: telling Palestinians to go and f**k themselves and their grievances. I think the Palestinian people would be right in reciprocating to Israeli Jews who would otherwise never lift a finger in their defense.

        Reply to Comment
    8. musa

      Wow. The amount of lies here are too much. This is literaly fake news.

      Reply to Comment

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