Police arrested 15 Bedouin suspects Sunday near the town of Lakia in the Negev for allegedly attacking Jewish National Fund workers and causing damage to equipment over a land dispute.
The detainees are suspected of a variety of offences including attempted murder, arson, compromising human life, blackmail, assault and damage to property.
According to suspicions, the detainees embarked on a sabotage campaign against JNF and Green Patrol workers over their claim to lands near the Lakia reagion. They are suspected of torching vehicles and construction tools, assaulting workers, uprooting trees and more.
It is also suspected that one of the detainees hurled a Molotov cocktail at a car belonging to a JNF worker while he was in it. Bedouins have been engaged in a land struggle for many years which has recently taken a more violent turn.
Violence against JNF workers began in February 2009.
Organized, hierarchic group
Police claim the sabotage and violence were perpetrated by an organized, hierarchic group which operated secretly using methods similar to those employed by criminal gangs. The group was led by two tribesmen. The other detainees are brothers and cousins.
A total of 300 police officers raided the suspects' homes on Sunday morning as part of a large-scale operation. Brigadier-General Avshalom Peled described the nature of offences as defiance against the State of Israel and said that the police operation aims at restoring order to the region and creating deterrence.
Major-General Yohanan Denino stressed that "there is no land dispute – whoever has a land claim should approach the courts."
The detainees will be brought for a remand hearing in the Beersheba Magistrate's Court on Sunday.
JNF Director Efi Stenzler, who is closely familiar with the phenomenon was personally briefed by the police and said, "The unbearable phenomenon of violence against workers, damage to trees and vandalism must stop and I thank the district chief for addressing the issue with a firm hand and determination."