Israel's ‘imminent’ village demolition leaves 700 Bedouin residents in limbo (VIDEOS, PHOTOS)

Video still. © Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel / English
Bedouin residents of Atim-Umm al-Hiran in Israel have been left in limbo as they wait for Israeli authorities to demolish their village to build a Jewish town in its place.

The Israel Lands Administration (ILA) announced it would begin destroying the village on Tuesday, displacing residents to make room for a new Jewish village for people tied to the illegal West Bank settlement of Susya.

Umm al-Hiran in the northern Negev desert is home to around 700 Bedouin – traditionally semi-nomadic tribes stretching from North Africa to the Middle East – who are citizens of Israel. Around 30 residents are set to be displaced as the first round of demolitions begin.

Images and video shared on social media Monday showed the villagers preparing for their homes to be demolished Tuesday morning, but, so far, it has not yet begun. The ILA announced later on Tuesday that the demolition of "illegal" structures had temporarily been put on hold as a result of the Supreme Court order, AP reported.

In a Facebook post, Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, stated that due to the “large presence of journalists, Arab parliamentarians and community leaders and activists” gathered in the area, “the Israeli authorities were deterred.”

While residents celebrated the news of the delay, the possibility that Israeli authorities could still arrive to destroy their homes hangs over their heads.

The planned demolition comes following a 13-year legal battle in which the Israeli Supreme Court authorized the razing of the village to build the Jewish town of “Hiran” in its place in 2015.

Despite acknowledging the villagers are not there illegally, as claimed by Israeli authorities, but had been moved to Umm al-Hiran by the state itself, the Supreme Court ruled that because the village is on state land, the state can do with it what it likes.

Umm al-Hiran is one of many “unrecognised” and newly-recognised villages targeted by the Israeli government in Negev that are set to be demolished.

In many cases, including that of Umm al-Hiran, residents were placed on that land by the Israeli military after it had displaced them from their ancestral homes during the establishment of Israel.

Residents of Umm al-Hiran were moved by military order in 1956, after a long dispute that started after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 saw the tribe members being removed from their original homes in Khirbet Zubaleh by the military.

Because Israel chooses not to recognize these communities, which are estimated to be home to about 80,000 Bedouin, they don’t have the access to services such as water and electricity like other Israeli citizens.

On Monday, the ILA said the demolition would go ahead and hired a private contractor at the cost of US$30,000, sending an invoice to the village. The ILA also said, “the costs of enlisting police officers, the as-of-yet-undetermined cost of bolstering forces, security, sealing of the perimeter, and coordination of vehicles for the purposes of arrests and curbing opposition must also be taken into account."

Israel is known to charge homeowners for demolitions, and invoiced the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in 2015.

The village of Atir is also set to be razed to become part of the new Hiran town that will contain 2,500 housing units.