Photo Credit: Flash 90
Ra'am leader MK Mansour Abbas visits the Negev. October 21, 2021

Bedouin clans rioted in the northern Negev on Tuesday night, tried to derail a train, and clashed with police, following JNF planting of trees on land the Al-Atrash clan claims as its own.

The riots included the blocking of roads with burning tires and rock-throwing at passing vehicles. A train was forced to make an emergency stop after the driver noticed that rocks were placed on the tracks, apparently by the rioters.

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A car and bus were pelted with rocks on Route 25. A journalist who arrived in the area to report on the incidents was attacked and his car was torched. He was rescued from the area by a police unit.

During the clashes, two policemen were lightly injured, one from a rock and one after being hit by a firework, and were treated on the spot.

“Police activity at the scene continues while showing zero tolerance for rioters,” the police stated.

At least 18 rioters have been arrested.

Tuesday night’s violent scenes were reminiscent of the countrywide Muslim riots in May in support of Hamas during Operation Guardian of the Walls.

Tensions in the area have been mounting in recent days, and protestors have clashed with police in the area on a more minor scale.

The Islamist Ra’am party, a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, expressed opposition to the planting of trees in the area while claiming that it was “theft of Arab lands.” It demanded that the planting stop, and is threatening the Coalition’s stability over the issue.

The Arab-majority Joint List held a demonstration in the area against the planting, and in response, the Likud party held a counter-demonstration in support of the “fundamental Zionist action.”

The Hamas terror organization lent support to the violence and stated Tuesday night that Israel’s “acts of destruction and confiscation in the Negev and the increasing crimes on the part of the occupation and the herds of its settlers will be encountered only in other acts of heroism.”

The right warned that stopping the planting in the Negev will constitute a “submission to terrorism,” and called on the government not to succumb to the Bedouins’ demands.

Left-wing politicians called to release the rioters and settle the issue quickly and quietly.

The Im Tirzu Zionist organization stated that the riots in the Negev “are a direct result of incitement from the Islamic Movement,” and called on “everyone who calls themselves Zionists in the Knesset to renounce any partnership with the Muslim Brotherhood’s emissaries and establish a Zionist coalition that seeks a future for Israel.”

“Relying on an anti-Zionist party that sees planting as an act of ‘shooting in the chest’ will lead to an unprecedented disintegration,” the organization warned.

The planting continued Wednesday, and Minister of Housing and Construction Ze’ev Elkin, whose office is entrusted with land management in the country, stated they would not cease.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.