Some 700 police officers secured Israel Land Administration personnel who demolished a mosque in Rahat in the early hours of Sunday morning. The mosque was built without a proper permit.
Hundreds of the Bedouin city's residents demonstrated against the mosque's demolition, and some of them threw stones at police officers. No injuries were reported, and officers used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Five residents were detained.
Police forces have yet to leave the Negev city for fear of riots.
Hunderd of police officers securing Rahat (Photo: Roee Idan)
Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen called the razing of the mosque a "complex and sensitive operation" and said it was carried out with relative ease due to the officers' "high performance level."
Southern District police chief Cmdr. Yochanan Danino, who supervised over the operation, said, "We acted with resolve to enforce the rule of law and relayed a message that Israel Police will not ignore illegal activity while remaining sensitive to the Muslims' feelings."
Danino noted that the courts had ruled that the mosque was constructed illegally on public property.
However, Rahat Mayor Faiz Abu-Seheban called the mosque's demolition a "crime committed by the State and government against an entire public. I am shocked and furious.
The mayor declared a general strike in the city and said, "We'll bring school children to see the rubble."
One resident urged Abu-Seheban to resign, saying, "We are not part of the State of Israel."
Mosque ruins in Rahat (Photo: Roee Idan)
The mayor said the land on which the mosque was built is under the Rahat Municipality's jurisdiction, "but I guess we are living in a Third World country.
"We could have reached a compromise and the razing could have been delayed, but this is a wicked government," Abu-Seheban said.
Police officials said the mosque was demolished after the conclusion of all judicial proceedings.
A Land Administration official said, "The construction of the mosque on State-owned land was funded by the Islamic Movement's Northern Branch in violation of the law."
The Islamic Movement's representative in the city, Yusef Abu Juma, said the mosque would be rebuilt. "Now we are all together – the Islamic Movement's northern and southern branches. Arabs from all across the country will come here to rebuild the mosque. There are mosques that were built without a permit all over Rahat."
Another resident said, "How would Jews feel if a synagogue would have been destroyed? It's the same thing."
Rahat resident Younes Abu Janem said, "Seeing the mosque being destroyed is infuriating. They would never destroy a synagogue."
Another resident called the mosque's destruction "racist." He said the property was previously used to conduct drug deals and that the mosque was built to eradicate the phenomenon.
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook