Clashes between the police and Bedouin
residents of Bir Hadaj left the southern Israeli village reeling, with residents claiming the cops exerted undue force against protesters – many of whom were children.
Monday's clashes, which broke out during an Interior Ministry operation aiming to seek out illegal construction in the village, involved hundreds of residents. Twelve were arrested in the riots – half of them teens.
On the scene, paramedics treated six people who were hurt by tear gas, as well as a 30-year-old man whose hand was broken. Meanwhile, 29 children were rushed to Soroka Medical Center in nearby Beersheba after inhaling the gas, used by the police in an attempt to control the crowds.
Teen injured by rubber bullet
Residents of the village, some of whom threw rocks at the officers, claim that the police fired tear gas near a school. The police deny firing on the institution, but a video filmed by residents shows the gas drifting into the school.
The Negev's Arab Education Forum decided to close schools in the region on Wednesday in protest against the police brutality.
Rioters torched tires (Photo: South District Police)
"The police must investigate the conduct of the officers, who unjustifiably hit and injured helpless minors," said attorney Ester Bar-Zion, who represents one of the teens who were detained. "Even after the minors were arrested, their rights were blatantly violated."
Bar-Zion said that while her client received medical attention, the other teens didn't.
Attorney Orna Cohen, who represents some of the other teens on behalf of the Adalah advocacy group, said that the minors were placed in a holding cell in Dimona without blankets or sheets.
"It was shocking," she said. "The police gravely violated the rights of the detainees."
Officials in the Adalah group further claimed that one of the teens was shot by a rubber bullet when he attempted to flee from the police.
Lawyers claim minors were mistreated
Two of the minors have since been released. The police deny using excessive force, claiming that some of the teens were hurt because they resisted arrest. Furthermore, the police stated that one of the detainees was hurt when his all-terrain vehicle crashed while he was throwing stones at the protesters.
"We view the riots and the violence employed by these youths against the security forces and innocent civilians very gravely," Negev District Police Chief Peretz Amar said. "The police intend to arrest everyone involved in the riots and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law."
The official accused the residents of the village of "unfairly exploiting children" by bringing them to the riots. He dismissed the claims of brutality, asserting that they were only leveled to deflect from the rioters' violent behavior.
"They are not victims," he said.
Residents of the nearby Kibbutz Revivim said that that following the clashes, residents of the Bedouin village set barns on fire in protest against the police's presence. Authorities in the Ramat Negev Regional Council added that the Bedouins also threw stones on cars on Route 222.
"Things are tense between the police and the residents," said Rateb Abu Krinat, a coordinator at the Negev Coexistence Forum.