The Southern District State Attorney's Office submitted 17 indictments to the Beersheba Magistrates' Court on Monday against some of the Bedouin protesters who took part in Saturday's violent demonstration at Hura junction that included rock throwing at police. Four of the suspects are minors. The state attorney requested that they be remanded in custody until the conclusion of legal proceedings.
Due to the scope of the rioting against the Prawer plan to resettle the Negev's Bedouins, responsibility for the investigation was assigned to the Negev District branch of the police's Central Unit. The indictments include charges of aggravated assault against police officers, obstructing a police officer while on duty, rioting, damaging police vehicles and harming police animals.
The commander of the Negev District, Brig. Gen. Peretz Amar, said that the police had deployed to allow legal and legitimate protests, but when police officers are faced with such severe violence, "It is clear that the goal of the rioters is not to legally demonstrate."
According to Amar, "The units were instructed to employ restraint and tolerance. With that, acts of violence toward people and property were treated harshly and with determination, and we will display zero tolerance for violence against police officers and take pains to ensure that people who break the law are brought to justice."
Meanwhile, a police representative said that despite the indictments the investigation into the riots will continue and further arrests are expected to be made. The Beersheba Magistrates' Court, upon request from the Southern District of the Israel Police on Monday, issued an injunction requiring all media and news outlets with video footage or photographs of the riots to hand them over to the police.
The police request and ensuing injunction sparked outrage among journalist photographers and cameramen who documented the events, and on Tuesday, according to various reports, the police retracted the request.
The Association of Israeli Journalists said in a statement, "The association strongly condemns the attempt to use journalists as an investigative tool and considers it a serious blow to the trust between the public and the press." The association said it was working to have the injunction removed.
In the meantime, during a stormy debate at the Knesset plenum over the Prawer plan, Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud-Beytenu) said that "the illegal confiscation of state lands by portions of the Bedouin population is intolerable. Most of the land in the Negev is owned by the state, the time for regularization has come."
Akunis expressed his confidence that most of the Bedouin population wants to live in peace. "The government does not want to see residents living in tin shacks without running water or electricity," he said. With that, Akunis emphasized that "the government will not allow the situation to be changed through threats and by raising the PLO flag."
MK Talab Abu Arar (Ra'am-Ta'al) voiced harsh criticism against the Prawer plan, saying, "The law proposal is heavy-handed and evicts the Bedouins from their lands." Arar suggested the creation of a neutral committee, comprised of government and opposition representatives, to formulate an objective picture of the situation on the ground. Arar also criticized the conduct of the policemen at the scene, saying that their actions were a sign of hatred and belligerence.