During the 1970’s, Israel built townships for the Bedouin and promised them services in exchange for the renunciation of their ancestral land. Around half of the indigenous population accepted, as grazing restrictions had denied them access to sources of sustenance for their animals. But the other half resisted in the hope of retaining some of their traditions and customs. In 1984, the courts ruled that the Negev Bedouin had no land ownership claims, effectively making their existing settlements illegal. Israel says the Arabs could move into the towns and as long as they refuse to do so the demolitions will continue. The Bedouin say they do not wish to inhabit urban areas, as it goes against the natural grain of who they are.

One factor in the removal of the Bedouin, according to the RCUV, is to make space for 250.000 new Jewish immigrants over the next five years, as part of the plan to develop the south because of over-population in the north.  At least 59 new Jewish settlements have been established in the Negev. While Blueprint Negev includes money for development of the government-run Bedouin townships, the unrecognised villages are in grave danger.

The destruction of Al-Atrash village began just before midday when Israeli security forces fanned out to form a line on a hill overlooking the tiny Bedouin settlement. Armed with guns, sprays and batons, the police moved forward led by a paramilitary force called Green Patrol. The village was cleared systematically. Police entered homes and ordered families to leave, people were still inside trying to salvage clothes and possessions. Resigned to their fate some of the Bedouin were already on the move with their pets, potted plants but some lingered pleading for time. 

Watching the demolition reduced many to tears and bewilderment. Some villagers would move their possessions to homes of friends or extended families but most said they would sleep under the stars and attempt to rebuild the following day.