Bedouin in South Unprotected From Rocket Fire

Girl, 11, clings to life after rocket hits her home; IDF says isolated villages are given lower priority when it comes to missile defense.

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Police officer at site of rocket explosion, near Lakiya, southern Israel, July 14, 2014.Credit: Police

Maram Alwakili, 11, the Bedouin girl wounded on Monday when a rocket hit her home in the area south of Lakiya, is still fighting for her life in the intensive care ward of Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva.

Her sister Atil, 13, is also hospitalized in Soroka with shrapnel in her leg from the same missile. Her condition is described as good.

The Bedouin communities in the Negev, which number some 200,000 residents, are accusing the government of having abandoned them under fire, due to the lack of missile protection.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed, following the wounding of the two girls, that the area in which they live is defined as an “open area.” The Iron Dome missile defense system is deployed firstly to defend facilities defined as “strategic” (such as Air Force bases and energy plants) and then according to population density. “Small and isolated settlements” are given lower priority when deciding on deployments, the IDF said.

According to Gadi Algazi the argument that the Bedouin population in the Negev is “thin” is problematic.

“We are not talking about one or two people in those areas,” said Gadi Algazi of the Tarabut-Hitchabrut Arab-Jewish movement for social and political change. “There are 200,000 Bedouin in the Negev, 70,000 or 80,000 of whom live in what are described as “unrecognized villages. These aren’t isolated farms with two families.”

Algazi said the average size of these unrecognized villages “is three times that of the average Jewish settlement in the Beer Sheva area.”

“Israel tramples on its citizens – and that’s not only true of the Bedouin,” he added.

In addition to the lack of Iron Dome support, all the Bedouin communities in the Negev lack emergency facilities, including sirens and secure shelters. A survey last week by the NGO Abraham Initiative found that most of the communities lack the most basic means of protection and emergency assistance. “In most of the regional councils, there are no shelters, not even public ones,” the NGO wrote in a letter to the ministries of defense and internal affairs.

The situation highlights the damage caused by the failure to recognize the Bedouin communities,” said Prof. Oren Yiftachel, a geographer from Ben-Gurion University. “These communities are being punished twice: Once when they’re deprived of basic facilities, such as electricity, running water and schools, and the second time when they are not provided with security due to their being unrecognized.”