[QODLink]
Middle East
Israeli police demolish mosque
Action in Arab town in Negev, following a court order, prompts protest call by Muslim residents.
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2010 21:16 GMT
Residents of Rahat began the construction of a new mosque shortly after Sunday's demolition [Reuters]

Israeli police have demolished a mosque in the Arab town of Rahat in the Negev desert.

The two-storey structure was knocked down before dawn on Sunday following a court ruling stating that it was built without a permit.

Police armed with clubs and shields surrounded the area as a bulldozer tore down the mosque.

Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said demonstrators trying to stop the demolition had thrown stones at the police, leading to two arrests.

Police fired tear-gas and rubber bullets at protesters, Yusuf Abu Jamer, a spokesman for the local branch of the Islamic Movement, said, describing the operation as "criminal and cowardly".

"More than 5,000 policemen came here, and they demolished this large mosque ... . During the last month hundreds and thousands of people from Rahat and the entire area came here," Abu Jamer said.

New mosque

After the raid, Rahat city council declared a general strike, with a protest planned for later on Sunday, residents said.

People conducted their prayers close to the site in defiance and, hours after the demolition, residents began pouring cement to build the foundations for a new mosque on a nearby plot.

"They demolished it and we are rebuilding," Fayiz Abu Sahiban, the mayor of Rahat, said.

He said residents built the mosque illegally because Israeli authorities would take too long to approve it, though the municipality tried to retroactively obtain a building permit. He also said most of Rahat's 13
other mosques were built illegally.

Rahat is the Negev's only Bedouin city and has more than 45,000 residents.

According to the Arab-Jewish Negev Co-existence Forum, around half of the 155,000 Bedouins in the Negev - all of whom are Israeli citizens - live in villages that are unrecognised by the government, without municipal services like water and electricity.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.