This report reflects information gathered until 15:00, 16 February, 2011

אלעראקיב, מחכים להורסים

photo: Haya Noach

This morning, February 16, heavy police and YASAM (Special Patrol Unit) forces arrived in Al-Arakib in order to destroy it for the 17th time. This police shot at residents out of their police cars even before they made contact with the residents who were sitting on the village grounds. The Special Units used tear gas, rubber and sponge bullets in order to push the village residents into the cemetery.

Several residents were injured; a father and son were taken to the hospital, and both are in treatment — the father in the nephrology unit and the child in the children’s unit. Some of the injured residents were afraid of going to the hospital. The police denied firing on the residents, but the announcement from Magen David Adom included reports of injuries from rubber and sponge bullets. An additional youth was arrested while trying to enter the cemetery; he was beaten harshly, arrested and taken to the Rahat police station.

השייח' סיאח שזרועו שנפגעה מירי

Sheik Sayyah's wounded arm

While the residents were trapped in their cemetery, the JNF bulldozers went back to their work on the village grounds. They piled up massive amounts of dirt in order to cover the land. In addition, they piled the dirt in order to block the exit from the cemetery into the village itself.

כWhen the bulldozers began their work in close proximity to the cemetery, many of the residents came closer fearing that the police might enter the cemetery area. The police began firing bullets of unknown type into the cemetery and terrorize the residents, in a bid to break their spirit and cause them to respond by throwing rocks, providing the heavily armed forces the excuse necessary to break into the cemetery compound.

After the preceding days in which activists slept in the village, this time there were almost no volunteers on the ground in the village at this difficult time. We will continue to stand beside the residents, with all our friends.

At the same time, the authorities' efforts to choke off the protest and break the spirit of Al-Arakib through the court system is proceeding ahead:

סלים אבו-מדיגם, פצוע, מוטל על הארץ

Salim Abu-Mdigem, lying on the ground wounded

Ahmad Abu-Mdigam and Ibrahim Abu-Mdigam, arrested during the 16th destruction, are still detained and are expected to have charges filed against them. Little by little, criminal cases are being built up in order to exhaust the residents of Al Araqib and break their spirit. Our friend Haya Noach, heading the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, is expected to stand trial in the month of April because she stood faithfully with the residents. Three activists — Gadi Algazi, a member of Tarabut, Yuval Halperin and Amnon Lotan, who stood beside the residents in the previous demolition, were released last Thursday night thanks to the efforts of the attorneys Shahda Ibn-Bari and Salem Abu-Mdigam, but the police made a determined effort to get restraining orders preventing them from reaching the village as part of their attempt to exhaust the activists and silence the protest.

Police representatives demanded a restraining order for eight weeks in order to prevent any disturbance to the JNF work. They based this demand on false accusations made against Algazi in relation to the previous demolitions and on "secret materials". The court in Beer Sheva consented to the effort to choke off the protest and issued a two week restraining order to the activists — and today, 16 February, an appeal was filed on this matter in the district court.

Update, February 20th: The district court declared the restrictions void and null. The attempt to prevent activists from coming to support the people of Al-Arakib has failed.

Please note: We have produced a short video documenting the 16th demolition of Al-Arakib on February 10th, 2011, and the stubborn resistance of the people of Al-Arakib.

The video is available in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Please watch and circulate!

Photos of residents and Salim: Haya Noach; Sheikh Sayyah's photo: Ali A-Toury