Bedouin Arabs riot, attempt to derail train over tree planting in Negev

Two police officers were wounded in the chaos and at least 18 Bedouin citizens of Israel were arrested.

By World Israel News Staff

Israel’s southern Negev region, where residents have long complained about a breakdown in law and order, was rocked by riots on Tuesday which saw 18 arrests, a journalist attacked, and an attempted train derailment.

Bedouin from communities in the Negev expressed their displeasure with a Jewish National Fund – KKL campaign to plant trees in the desert by hurling burning tires at the Segev Shalom interchange, firing projectiles including fireworks at police, and throwing rocks at passing motorists and buses.

The violence began during a JNF-KKL ceremony celebrating the tree planting, near the Bedouin community of Mulada.

Two police officers were wounded in the chaos and at least 18 Bedouin citizens of Israel were arrested.

In a separate incident the same day, some 20 Bedouin youth attacked journalist Nati Yefet of the left-wing daily Haaretz, who was covering the riots.

Yefet’s car was stolen and set on fire, and the journalist had to be rescued from the fray by security forces.

Hebrew language media reported that the Shin Bet is conducting an investigation after suspected rioters placed rocks on railway tracks near Beersheba, in an attempt to derail the train and potentially cause a deadly accident.

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Gaza-based terror group Hamas congratulated the Bedouin for the rioting, giving praise in a statement “to our people in the Negev who are rising up against the Zionist oppression and aggression.”’

“Do not let our people in the Negev deal with the occupation on their own,” the statement continued. “All our people ‘inside occupied Palestine’ [Israel] must be with them.”

The violence comes just days after a controversial bill to connect illegally built Bedouin homes to Israel’s national electricity grid was approved by the Knesset.

Local council leader Pini Bardash told Israel Hayom that the decision had emboldened the Bedouin.

“The government has started to give in. They gave them a finger, now they want the whole hand…the government needs to say, no more,” Bardash said.

He added that he was worried the violence would “develop into something bigger, a real intifada.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that while he believed “Israel should plant trees on state lands,” it needs to be done in a way that does not cause “harm the livelihood of local residents.”

He blamed former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the riots, characterizing it as the result of “12 years of abandoning the Negev and neglecting the Bedouin problem.”