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Negev: Israeli police arrest dozens of Palestinians in night raid

As protests continue against the JNF forestation project, the Israeli police tactics are condemned as 'barbaric'
Israeli police detain a young woman as Palestinians protest in the Negev against a forestation project by the JNF, 12 January 2022 (AFP)

Israeli authorities have arrested dozens of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Negev region, south of the country, as protests continue against forestation plans by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in the area.

In the early hours of Tuesday, Israeli police forces stormed the towns and villages of al-Zarnouq, Abu Talool, Khashm al-Zina, and Tel al-Sabe, detaining almost 41 Palestinians, the youngest of whom is only 10 years old.

Local media reported that those arrested by the Israeli police on Tuesday were accused of being involved in the protests against JNF's plan to plant trees in the Negev, which Palestinians see as a project to uproot them from their land.

Last week, Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Negev faced off with Israeli police and JNF workers. The Palestinians were tilling their lands and crops in al-Atrash and Saawa villages, one of the six Palestinian villages in al-Naqe area.

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JNF launched the first stage of its forestation plan over almost 300 dunams in the al-Naqe area in December.

However, the Israeli government pressured the JNF to halt its plan after four Arab Knesset members representing Palestinians in the Negev warned that they were not going to vote in support of future laws proposed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government.

Since then protests have continued to flare in the Negev, along with solidarity protests by Palestinians in the cities of Haifa, Umm al-Fahm and Nazareth.

The Higher Steering Committee for Arabs in the Negev (HSCAN) has announced that protests would continue daily outside the Israeli court in Beer Sheva city, where the detainees face trial, to call for their immediate release.

It described the Israeli police's crackdown on the protests as "barbaric" and called for an investigation into the events.

It condemned the Israeli police's use of force, tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at the protesters and for conducting "arbitary arrests" against them.

"We call for an investigation into the aggressive and racist behaviours of the police," HSCAN said.

There are almost 300,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel living in the Negev region, the majority of whom belong to Bedouin clans.

Some 100,00 of them are currently living in 35 unrecognised villages that Israel considers illegal, and it refuses to provide them with electricity, water, education, health, and transportation.