An Israeli vehicle was stoned on Wednesday night on Highway 60 near Beersheva, despite the presence of police nearby, local media reported on Thursday morning.

“We were driving home to Meitar from Beersheva,” the driver of the vehicle, who had his daughter with him at the time of the incident, told Channel 12 News. “At Umm Batin Junction, next to Omer, there was a police presence—but as we passed it we heard a bang.”

Umm Batin lies approximately halfway between Beersheva and the town of Meitar to the northeast.

“The car suffered damage, but thankfully no one was hurt,” said the driver, according to the report. The experience had been frightening, he said.

“We were talking to each other and suddenly we hear a bang and shrapnel flew everywhere,” he said. “It cannot be that people are afraid to drive at night near Beersheva. It’s scary.”

The incident comes amid heightened tensions in the south, following two days of rioting by local Bedouin. The unrest was sparked by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund tree-planting ceremonies in the area in honor of Tu B’Shevat.

Rioters blocked train tracks, burned tires and threw fireworks at security forces, as well as stoning passing vehicles. On Tuesday, two police officers suffered minor injuries while responding to the unrest. Haaretz reporter Nati Yefet had his car stolen and set on fire.

Israeli police clash with Bedouin during a riot over tree planting by the Jewish National Fund, outside the Bedouin village of al-Atrash in the Negev desert, on Jan. 12, 2022. Photo by Flash90.

Israeli Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin told Kan Radio that Israel would not be deterred by the violence.

“We will continue to plant trees, like we should,” he said. “We will handle the political problem. I understand the pressure that the Bedouin public is putting on [the United Arab List] Ra’am [Party]. These are state-owned lands. I’m in favor of solving the problems through dialogue, and that is the line [Ra’am leader Mansour] Abbas is taking, which I welcome,” he added.

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned the violence.

However, during a meeting with members of the Bedouin community on Tuesday night, Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan of the Meretz Party conveyed quite a different message, according to Channel 12.

“Is Elkin getting rowdy? We’ll calm him down,” said the deputy minister. “Remember, he [Elkin] has no power in the government,” said Golan, adding, “If we tell him, tomorrow morning, ‘Habibi, if you don’t put a stop to this, we’ll stop voting with the coalition.”

The deputy minister’s words were met with stormy applause, according to the report.

Golan, who came under fire last week for calling the residents of Homesh “subhuman,” “despicable” and “a disgrace,” went on to state, “Today, you have power in the government that the Bedouin in the Negev have never had.”

It wasn’t just the Ra’am Party under Mansour Abbas that would protect their interests, said Golan, but also Meretz “and, I hope, Labor.”

“I can tell you that Meir Cohen of Yesh Atid is with you, and Alon Schuster of Blue and White,” he said.

“Do what is necessary in the field; there is a very strong lobby for the Bedouin in the Knesset, let it work,” he added.

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