Israeli bulldozers guarded by a large force of police started to demolish the mosque in Wadi Al-Niam in the Negev on Thursday amid residents' fears that authorities could also demolish homes in the village. A demolition order had been nailed to the mosque wall a few days earlier.
The Negev Foundation for Land and Man denounced the demolition, describing the Israeli act as a blatant assault on the sanctity of the mosque and on Arab rights to live in the Negev. It also noted that the demolition violates the right to freedom of worship as well as international laws and conventions.
The foundation also condemned the police attacks on the residents of Wadi Al-Niam, the demolition of their homes, the confiscation of their property and the destruction of their crops. It stressed that the indigenous people of the Negev Desert are determined to stay in their homes in the face of Israeli scheming and force. It appealed to Arabs in Israel and the Arabs of the Negev in particular to stand by the people of Wadi Al-Niam.
The Islamic movement in the Negev said that the demolition of the Wadi Al-Niam mosque is a criminal act by the Israelis. It is, the movement said in a statement, part of the wider ethnic cleansing of the area by which Israel wants to displace 60,000 Palestinian Arabs from their traditional home in the desert so that Jewish settlers and the Israeli army can move in.
"The people in the Negev have the right to live on their own land," said the Islamic movement. "They have the right to build on it and live on it and worship on it." The demolitions, the statement added, will only increase the people's resolve to stay put on their land.
The movement called on all human rights organisations and institutions in the Negev to stand side by side with the people of Wadi Al Niam, defend their legitimate rights and confront Israel's ethnic cleansing.
Please note: The image used for this piece is a file photo of a Palestinian mosque razed by Israel. It is not the image of the mosque in Wadi Al-Niam.
The image used is by Wissam Nassar, of the destroyed Al-Taqwa mosque in Gaza City, taken on July 26, 2009. The mosque itself was destroyed during Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip the year before.
Some of you may see the same photo being used online by other media outlets in relation to a story from Angola. For example, the image is used on this page. However, if you check the file name for the image on that website [look at the url at this link], you will note that the website's editors did name the photo as "Gaza Mosque". Should you require additional independent verification, feel free to contact the website editors of other sites that use this image in relation to the Angola story, and ask to verify the source of the picture.
Clarification added at 11.30 GMT on May 26, 2014
Links to verified sources of photography:
Al-Taqwa mosque, different angle, different photographer: Getty 1, Getty 2
Al-Taqwa mosque, similar angle, same photographer: Apa Images 1, Apa Images 2, Apa Images 3