Negev residents expressed shock and dismay following a stormy Sunday night when Beduin Arabs threw Molotov cocktails and stones at cars in the town of Omer, near Beersheba, blowing up the car of a district judge.
“We sought coexistence with the Beduin and now it blew up in our face,” Omer mayor Pini Badash told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Badash said that around 150-200 Beduin youths came and threw rocks and fire bombs at cars. “People here are in shock,” he said.
The mayor explained that Beduin enter the town freely to use local services such as the post office, social welfare, and clinics, yet they attacked.
Badash warned that if such a skirmish occurs again, he will close off the town to Beduin in surrounding villages that seek to use services within it.
Asked who was responsible for the attack, he responded that “the Islamic Movement and Hamas are behind it.”
While it was not always this way, Badash said that most of the Beduin identify with Palestinian nationalism.
“The situation is getting worse because of the Islamic Movement. What happened yesterday was scary and dangerous,” he added.
An Omer security official, who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity, said the influence of the Islamic Movement and Hamas has grown in the area in the last few years.
Such an attack has never happened here, and “it will happen again,” he said. “We feel the hate and tensions in the Beduin community that did not exist before. They are being radicalized,” he added.
Nissim Nir, Omer municipality spokesman, told the Post that he received a warning at around 8 p.m. on Sunday that a violent protest would take place at 10. He immediately contacted police officials, but was unable to reach anyone.
He finally reached the local guard in Omer who said that he had already received intelligence about the upcoming protest.
At 10:15, reports came in about stone throwing and fire bombs, which failed to go off. A fire bomb did however blow up the car of district judge, he said.
Nir pointed out the absurdity of the situation, where former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, has three sisters living in the nearby Beduin town of Tel Sheva, married to Israeli citizens.
Most of the local residents who spoke to the Post supported their mayor’s position.
Rahel Ben-Yishai, who works at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, said that the attack came as a “shock” and that “nothing at this level of violence has ever happened here.”
Another resident, who has lived in Omer for the past year, but did not want to give his name, said the situation “is grave.”
“On Yom Hazikaron [Remembrance Day] they [the Beduin] make noise from their mosques and set off fireworks,” he said.
“There is not enough security here,” and there are regular robberies. The town, however, had a high standard of living, he added.
One woman, a thirty-year resident who did not want to be named, downplayed the ruckus, but voiced her upset that Beduin who use the local health facilities, post office and bank, would do such a thing.
A Beduin protest failed to materialize at the Shoket junction between Meitar and Omer after reportedly not receiving police permission. A spontaneous Jewish protest did take place with around 30 people, where there was a heavy police presence and at least one Beduin was arrested.
A resident of Meitar told the Post that he came to protest “for our rights, as southern residents are under rocket fire.”
Another protester from Beersheba said that the state should deny citizenship to those who use violence, and not peacefully protest, referring to Israeli-Arab protests that often became violent over the past few days.
A small protest developed at the entrance of the nearby Beduin town of Lakiya with a row of men holding up signs along the road to Tel Aviv, which police later broke up peacefully.