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Palestinians launch general strike against Israeli village demolitions

THOUSANDS of Palestinians are set to defy Israeli threats as they join a general strike to defend villages in the Negev desert from demolition after a night of violent attacks by security forces.

Soldiers stormed the Palestinian villages of al-Atrash and al-Ruwais in the Negev on Tuesday firing rubber bullets and stun grenades. At least 20 people were arrested.

Journalists recording the atrocities were also targeted in the attacks during which two tents that had been erected on Bedouin land were torn down.

Local reporter Yasser Al-Uqbi was reportedly beaten by police.

Israeli police sealed off the villages and protected members of the Jewish National Fund (KKF) as they arrived with bulldozers to destroy the land in what locals described as “an ethnic cleansing project.”

The controversial plans led by the KKF will see the demolition of least five Bedouin villages — al-Atrash, al-Sawa, al-Zarnouq, al-Ruwais, Beir Haddaj and Khirbet Watan — to make way for trees.

The Negev is seen as an important strategic location for Israel’s colonial projects.

Two members of the Likud party -— former government ministers Avi Dichter and Miri Regev — planted trees in the razed areas earlier this week as a symbol of the seizure of the land.

Security forces warned against further attempts to block the roads, threatening to deal with those resisting the land and building demolitions with “an iron fist.”

But the Higher Follow Up Committee of Arabs in the Negev — an umbrella organisation of Palestinian groups in the region — declared a general strike in defence of the villages earmarked for demolition.

“We took the decision to undertake proactive measures, beginning with adopting a cumulative resistance programme over a period of six months that will lead to a regional general strike and a massive demonstration outside the Prime Minister’s office, and the internationalisation of the issue to expose the racist practices [of Israeli authorities] before international institutions,” the committee said in a statement. 

Hamas called on the Palestinians to “rise up with them so that the occupation will count to a thousand before thinking about performing any aggression on the land.”

Resistance to the Israeli illegal settlement plans has been led by Palestinian youth with a school strike and sit-in set up on the lands to be demolished starting on Tuesday.


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