JERUSALEM, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- Some 2,000 Bedouins from the village of Bir Hadaj in southern Israel's Negev desert, on Thursday demanded the state rescind recent demolition orders against a number of homes.
The protesters, who demonstrated in front of government buildings and a local court in Beersheba, held signs reading "No to destruction, yes to recognition!"
There were no reports of confrontations there, the Ha'aretz daily wrote.
Last week, a police unit entered the village to distribute demolition orders. Angry residents became violent, according to police, who used tear gas and shock grenade to disperse the protest.
"Not only they want to demolish houses, none of the residents have permits to build new houses," said Thabet Abu Rass, director of the Adalah Legal Center for Minority Rights.
"While the media is busy with the elections, the state has opened a war of destruction against the Bedouin villages," Abu Rass said, adding that "people are afraid they won't have a roof over their heads."
There are nearly 200,000 Bedouins, a desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group divided into clans and tribes, with more than half of them residing in the Negev. They became Israeli citizens with the state's inception in 1948, but several Bedouin tribes were displaced and others remained without Israeli citizenship within Palestinian-populated areas.
In late March, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office approved a plan to relocate some 30,000 Bedouins living in officially unrecognized Negev villages into three major population areas, including the large towns of Rahat, Hura and Kseifa.
The program calls for concentrating the residents of some 45 officially unrecognized villages and shantytowns into three main population centers that are close to existing towns and major highways, officials said.
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to throw us from our lands, destroy our homes, put us all together in a tiny place, who the hell knows where -- how's that possible?" one village leader, Muhammed al-Amour Nassasrah, complained to Xinhua.
However, Prime Minister's Office Spokesman Mark Regev explained that "the goal of the government's policy is to narrow unacceptable gaps in Israeli society, bring the Bedouins out of this current sub-standard position and integrate them into Israeli society in a more effective way."
He said that Israel is a small country with limited land resources, and simply cannot allow unrestricted growth.
"Ultimately, all modern countries have a challenge in dealing with Bedouin concepts of land ownership. What we've done here is to meet the Bedouin half-way," according to Regev.