Israel to Evacuate Long-disputed Bedouin Village Umm al-Hiran in April

Authorities have been trying to reach an evacuation agreement with the residents of the unrecognized village in recent years to no avail; an Israeli policeman and a village resident died in altercations over the issue last year

Israeli officials outside a home in Umm al-Hiran to deliver an evacuation notice, March 21, 2018.
\ Ilan Assayag

The unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran is to be evacuated at the end of April, the Israel Lands Authority and the Authority for the Development and Settlement of the Bedouin said Tuesday. Notices are expected to be given to the residents on Wednesday.

To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

Last week there were several police patrols in the village, but police say they haven’t started preparing for the evacuation. According to the director of the Bedouin resettlement authority, Yair Maayan, all the structures n the villages, of which there are dozens, including one used for prayer, will be demolished. A new Jewish community called Hiran is to be built on the ruins of the village.

In recent years the authorities have tried to reach an evacuation agreement with all the village’s residents, who will have to move to the nearby Bedouin town of Hura. A number of solutions were proposed, including a move to a temporary site for a few years until a new neighborhood could be built for them in Hura. But to date there is no agreement.

As far as the development authority is concerned, the current offer involves moving to developed plots in Hura’s Neighborhood 12. “The can come today, tomorrow or Sunday. Whoever wants to can get his plot. The plots are ready with infrastructures and everything,” Maayan told Haaretz last week.

A man standing on the grounds of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, situated in the Negev.
\ Ilan Assayag

In November 2016, the state managed to evacuate one of Umm al-Hiran’s residents, Ahmed Abu al-Kiyan, to Hura, but since then it has not been able to reach agreement with anyone else. Many Bedouin residents say that “agreement” to be evacuated comes after a campaign of heavy pressure from the state authorities, including the police.

In January 2017, after a night of unsuccessful negotiations between residents and the development authority, hundreds of policemen descended on the village to execute demolition orders. Even before the process began, the incident occurred in which a resident, Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, was shot to death in his vehicle. After police began shooting, al-Kiyan’s vehicle accelerated and ran down a policeman, Erez Amedi Levy, killing him. That event remains a subject of dispute, with police insisting that al-Kiyan ran into the policeman deliberately, while the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers believes the ramming was not a terror attack.

That case is now in the hands of State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who must decide whether to summon the police officers involved to be questioned. It isn’t clear if Nitzan plans to deal with the question of whether the ramming was a terror attack or not.