1,000 Policemen Deployed to Separate Rahat Residents, Far-right Marchers

More than 1,000 police officers were deployed in the Negev Bedouin town of Rahat yesterday to separate an angry crowd from the approximately 50 right-wing activists who came to march there.

The right-wingers were protesting what they called "a craze of illegal outpost construction" in the town, in light of the current discussion about evacuating Jewish outposts in the West Bank.

With helicopters hovering overhead, hundreds of residents stood on their rooftops flying black flags, cursing and throwing stones and shoes at the police.

One police officer was slightly injured when a stone struck his helmet, but there were no other casualties.

"In the eyes of the law, Rahat is no different than Migron," said right-wing activist Baruch Marzel, referring to the unauthorized West Bank outpost settlement slated for evacuation.

"If [Supreme Court President] Dorit Beinisch goes out in her pajamas at night to issue demolition orders against every shack that is built, she must also address the thousands of illegal structures built by Bedouin in the Negev," Itamar Gvir, a leader of the protest, said.

MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said he was protesting that "the Islamic movement has taken over Rahat."

"This is a state within a state. We don't want to bequeath to our children a demographic and geographic catastrophe," he said.

Rahat Mayor Faiz Abu-Sahiban urged residents to stay calm and not to play into the hands of the right, but added, "We welcome many guests, ultra-Orthodox, religious ands secular. This is an open town, but when the extreme right comes to make a provocation, we won't let them."

Magen David Adom raised its alert level throughout the region, fearing casualties. Twenty people were hurt during clashes following a similar far-right march in the Israeli Arab city of Umm al-Fahm in March.