The destruction began just before midday when Israeli security forces fanned out to form a line on a hill overlooking the tiny Bedouin settlement.There's another two pages to the report here and here.
Armed with guns, sprays and batons, the police moved forward with military precision, led by a paramilitary force called the Green Patrol.
Out of sight, reinforcements sat in a fleet of vehicles in case of resistance by the Arab villagers while behind the police line three bulldozers revved their engines ominously.
Once they reached the bottom of the hill, officers vaulted a fence then began clearing the village systematically. As police entered the homes and ordered families to vacate, people were still inside frantically trying to salvage clothes and possessions.
Some of the Bedouin, resigned to their fate, were already on the move, carrying pets, pot plants and kitchen utensils, but others lingered and pleaded for more time.
As one old woman left her home for the last time she wept and looked to the sky while her daughter turned and spat in the direction of a policewoman filming the operation.
"I hope you show your film so the world can see this ethnic cleansing," she shouted in Arabic. From another shack two women wearing black abayas or cloaks appeared carrying a sofa. They struggled with it for about 20m until, exhausted, they gave up and sat on it in the shade of a small tree.
Staring ahead in stunned silence, they remained there briefly until policemen arrived waving their arms to shoo them away as if herding cattle or sheep. Mohammed, only 5 days old, was carried away by his mother in a blue plastic bucket seat, sleeping and oblivious to the plight of his tribe and three elder siblings.
"Where will we go?" his mother, Khatan, said as she walked away from the land she was brought up in.
According to Israel, these Bedouin Arabs have no rights to live on this desert land in the Negev region. This community, close to the town of Beersheba in the south and known as an "unrecognised village", was home to members of the al-Atrash tribe for nearly 30 years until the authorities arrived to destroy it.
As 20 homes were razed an official from the Israel Land Administration said the settlement was illegal and that security forces were executing a ruling made by the Beersheba magistrate's court in 2000. "The land is state land. They [the Negev Bedouin] do not have a link to this land. The court gave a verdict and we are fulfilling it," said the official who was monitoring the demolitions.
The al-Atrash tribe had made numerous appeals against the order but a few days earlier a judge ruled the Bedouin had no land rights and the destruction of the village must take place.
March 27, 2009
Here's a harrowing case of Israel's internal ethnic cleansing reported in the New Zealand Herald by Billy Briggs under the heading The unwanted tribe of Israel: