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Negev: Israeli settlers attempt to set up new settlement in Palestinian village

Israeli police evacuated around 50 settlers who set up tents in Arab al-Ziyadneh village in the Negev
Settlers hanging Israeli flags while attempting to create a new settlement of Maale Paula near the Palestinian village of Arab al-Ziyadneh in the Negev, 8 February 2022 (Social media)

Dozens of Israeli settlers on Tuesday night stormed the Palestinian village of Arab al-Ziyadneh in the Negev region, southern Israel, installing tents and caravans in an attempt to seize the land and set up a settlement. 

Israeli police cordoned the area and called settlers to evacuate the tents, which were later destroyed. Far-right Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir led the settlers seeking to establish an outpost in Arab al-Ziyadneh, near the Palestinian-majority city of Rahat in the Negev.

Ben-Gvir is head of the Jewish Power party, part of the Religious Zionism political alliance that calls for the eviction of Palestinians from their lands and running Israel according to Torah texts.

He has been active recently in the Negev alongside workers from the Jewish National Fund (JNF) who are carrying out a forestation project to plant trees in the al-Naqe area in the Negev, close to Palestinian communities. 

Palestinian citizens of Israel see the forestation plan as a tool to evict them from their villages. They have protested against it, leading the Israeli government to halt the plan temporarily last month. 

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'We are the landlords'

On Tuesday, Palestinians protested in Arab al-Ziyadneh, local media reported, and called on the settlers to leave the area. Israeli police barred some Palestinians from entering the village while they were evacuating around 50 settlers from the area.

Ben-Gvir arrived in the area accompanied by members of the Hilltop Youth, an extremist settler group active in attacks against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Ben-Gvir, seen carrying a gun, was also joined by Shlomo Karhi, a Knesset member from the Likud party, and Orit Struck, a Knesset member from Ben-Gvir's Religious Zionism alliance.

Ben-Gvir, Karhi and Struck sit on the opposition aisle of the Knesset. Ben-Gvir has, on different occasions, incited ​​​​​​ against the Islamist Raam party, led by Mansour Abbas, to weaken Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government.

With almost 300,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel residing there, the Negev is considered Raam's electoral base. 

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Ben-Gvir told Palestinians on Tuesday, while facing them off in Arab al-Ziyadneh, "We'll send you to Syria." He then told settlers: "This is our home and we welcome whoever wants to live in this place. These are the lands of the Israeli state and we are the landlords."

Settlers claimed that the outpost is being created on land that belongs to the Israeli state, naming the settlement Maale Paula after David Ben-Gurion's wife.

A statement by the settlement founders said that "this is a Zionist response to the lack of governance and sovereignty in the Negev vis-a-vis the Bedouin and the laundering of illegal Bedouin buildings in the region by the government."

Of 300,000 Palestinian citizens living in the Negev, around 100,000 live in 35 unrecognised villages which lack essential public services.

Unrecognised villages are denied any infrastructure or support from the government. There are no means of transportation, no roads, no schools, and Israeli authorities do not collaborate with their local leadership.

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