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Nineteen Beduin men from the Talalka tribe in the Negev are being questioned by police after they were arrested earlier this week on suspicion of systematically attacking Jewish National Fund staff and damaging property.
The Beersheba Magistrate’s Court on Sunday extended the suspects’ remand by five to 10 days, and police are continuing to gather evidence with the aim of enabling state prosecutors to indict them, a police spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Police suspect the attacks on the JNF employees were part of a dispute over land ownership between the tribe and the state. The men are suspected of attempted murder, arson, endangering lives on the roads, extortion, attacking public workers and vandalism, police said.
The arrests followed several incidents in which state workers,
including JNF staff, were attacked and threatened, and had their
vehicles set on fire, police said. Thousands of trees were vandalized
or uprooted, they added.
“We believe these incidents are part of a fight over lands between the
suspects and the state, and the aim of the attacks was to instill fear
and prevent state authorities from carrying out their duties,” the
Negev police district’s central unit said on Sunday.
“The investigation is still very much ongoing. We are working toward an
indictment that will result in convictions that serve as a deterrent,”
Supt. Liat Nidam, of the southern police district, told the
Cmdr. Yochanan Danino, head of the southern district, ordered its
central unit, which is headed by Ch.-Supt. Lior Zohar, to launch an
undercover investigation into the attacks several months ago. Three
hundred officers took part in the raids early on Sunday.
“This morning, we are completing a long line of successful law
enforcement activities,” Danino said during a briefing for officers
before the raids.
In April 2009, two Beduin men aged 22 were indicted at the Beersheba
Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday for going on a vandalism rampage at the
UNESCO-recognized Uvdat archaeological park. According to police, the
men, Hassan and Ahmad al-Marrak, were motivated by a desire avenge the
demolition of illegal structures by the state. The demolished
structures belonged to the suspects’ clan, police added.