Large protests over a plan to resettle nomadic Bedouin Arabs in Israel's southern Negev desert caused injuries Saturday and led to some arrests as well as condemnation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Protests focused on a bill that would move thousands of Bedouins into government-recognized villages. Opponents charge the plan would confiscate Bedouin land and affect their nomadic way of life, but Israel says the moves are necessary to provide basic services that many Bedouins lack and would benefit their community while preserving their traditions.
Over a thousand people protested in a Negev village in southern Israel Saturday. The demonstration turned violent when some protesters threw rocks and fire bombs at police and burned tires. Police, some on horseback, responded with water cannon, tear gas and stun grenades, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Hundreds more took to the streets at protests held in Jerusalem, Haifa and elsewhere. Police made more than 40 arrests and 15 officers were injured, Rosenfeld said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement condemning the violence. "We will treat offenders to the fullest extent of the law and will not tolerate such disturbances. We have — and will have — no tolerance for those who break the law, Netanyahu said. "Attempts by a loud and violent minority to deny a better future to a large and broad population are grave. We will continue to advance the law for a better future for all residents of the Negev," he said.