Photo Credit: Courtesy of Netivei Israel
Highway 6, Israel’s fast toll highway.

The Israel Lands Authority and Israeli security forces on Wednesday evacuated and demolished an illegal squatter’s camp on state land in the Negev. The encampment, known as Umm Salim, took shape in Wadi Khalil in the late 1990s on land adjacent to the intended route of the Trans Israel Highway (Route 6).

In recent years, this cluster of illegal structures has been the main obstacle to the completion of the southern section of Route 6, despite the government’s attempts to resolve the impasse. The Bedouin Authority conducted negotiations with the residents of the encampment that dragged on for years, in an attempt to reach an agreement for the consensual evacuation of the encampment – including an extremely generous compensation.


Until recently, the squatters used any and all means to prevent the evacuation of their encampment, taking their claims all the way to the High Court of Justice, where they presented very specific criteria for relocation to the Bedouin township of Tel Sheva.

The Shocket junction area that became free for construction following the evacuation of illegal squatters, May 8, 2024. / Courtesy of Regavim

Justices Yitzhak Amit, Dafna Barak-Erez, and Khaled Kabub unanimously rejected the squatters’ petition, noting that the state had exhausted every conceivable channel for dialogue with the residents even though the development plans for the area had been approved years earlier. The residents’ demand to be relocated to Tel Sheva would further delay the Route 6 project by years.

On Wednesday morning, a very large force of Israel Police and the Border Guard accompanied Israel Land Authority’s enforcement inspectors, and the squatters’ camp was removed. Residents of the encampment were relocated to Umm Batin, a legal Bedouin town in the Al Kasum Regional Council, located just over half a mile from the evacuated site.

Residential plots, developed for the evacuees at the state’s expense, were ready and waiting for them. In addition to free, fully developed land parcels, each of the relocated squatters was also given a compensation payment of hundreds of thousands of Israeli taxpayer shekels for each of the illegal structures the state was forced to demolish.

The relocation site was chosen in light of the tribal affiliation of the squatters of Umm Salim with Umm Batin – they are all members of the Abu Assa clan.

A Regavim spokesperson explained that “development of the Negev has been held up for too many years by construction offenders. Highway 6 is a crucial transportation artery that has tremendous importance for the State of Israel’s future. It is inconceivable that paving the southern section of the Shocket Interchange has been stalled for so many years.”

“Forward-thinking planning is the government’s number one duty, and it is clear that the State of Israel must develop and complete infrastructure projects that benefit all residents of the Negev and future generations of Israeli citizens,” Regavim said.

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