A massive force of Israeli police, accompanied by officials with the Israeli Lands Administration, descended on the Palestinian Bedouin town of Rahat, in southern Israel, where they demolished a mosque that they claimed was ‘built without a permit’.Palestinian Bedouins have lived in the Negev desert in present-day Israel for centuries, but since the creation of Israel in 1948, have been forbidden from building homes and other structures. Israeli authorities have repeatedly forced the Bedouin population to move from one place to another, and have dislocated whole villages.
Israeli authorities pushed the Bedouin population into the town of Rahat, where it fails to provide basic services, and routinely denies permits to the local population to build homes and other buildings.
The mosque destroyed Sunday, was constructed seven months ago on a vacant lot which had been the site of drug dealing and use. Local imams said they wanted to transform the site into a place of community and prayer, to displace the bad elements that had previously congregated there.
While the Mayor of Rahat, Faiz Abu Sahiban, originally denied a permit for the mosque to be built, he later stood up for the mosque against Israeli federal authorities who ordered its destruction. Abu Sahiban said that the demolition on Sunday, led by the Israeli Lands Administration, was illegal because the land in question was Rahat municipal property and not the jurisdiction of the Israeli Lands Administration.
Around 1,000 people gathered to protest the demolition of the mosque. Some tried to stand in the way of bulldozers as they rammed into the walls of the building. Five people were arrested, and taken to Israeli government detention facilities.
The residents of Rahat gathered at the site after the mosque was demolished, and began to rebuild it. They told reporters that no matter how many times the Israeli authorities destroy the mosque, they will rebuild it again.