Under the unrelenting heat of the Negev desert, for the fifth time in the last two weeks, Tayaeer Abu Asda has set up an improvised tent, which will serve as a temporary home for his wife and five children for at least the next three days. Abu Asda, 38, a Palestinian Bedouin and truck driver, is one of a group of Bedouin now numbering 500 who have been living for decades in Wadi al-Khalil, a village east of Be’er Sheva, about 12 miles (20km) from Gaza.

In early May, Israeli authorities demolished 350 structures in the community, 47 of them homes, leaving hundreds of children homeless. In the shadow of the conflict in Gaza, the government described this action as “an important move of sovereignty and governance”.

The Bedouin erect makeshift tents to provide shelter for their families. However, every three days Israeli forces arrive with a sizeable police presence, dismantling the temporary homes, uprooting trees that had offered shade and issuing threats of arrest.

Villagers claim the Israelis uprooted about 100 olive trees. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

“In Wadi al-Khalil, Israelis are doing what they have done for decades in the West Bank,” says Jabr Abu Aasa, 55, a father of nine and grandfather of 15. “They are doing it without offering us any alternative. We are desperate. We struggle to access water. Our children suffer from the heat during the day and the cold at night. We don’t deserve this. We have been seeking a solution for years, hoping for a fair resolution, yet the state has obstructed all our options.”

Israel considers the homes constructed in Wadi al-Khalil to be illegal, and human rights activists say in the past it has used the “unrecognised” status of Bedouins to deprive these villages of basic rights and services and to justify confiscations. The villages lack most basic services, such as rubbish collection and access to water.

Authorities have long planned to demolish the village to expand the southernmost stretch of Highway 6, but the expansion works were eventually halted due to a lack of funds.

Children play barefoot among the debris of the demolitions. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

The far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has openly endorsed and pushed for the demolition of Palestinian homes, both within Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territory. More than a year ago he shared a video on social media celebrating the demolition of Palestinian Bedouin homes in the Negev.

Last month he said the Wadi al-Khalil homes were “illegal constructions” and issued a warning to anyone who “violates the law in the Negev”. He said the destruction was “an important step” indicating that the government’s authority would not be challenged.

His office said: “As the minister promised, there’s a considerable increase in demolitions of illegal houses in the Negev and the minister is proud to lead this policy and is doing it every week. Every outlaw must know the Negev’s lands are not no man’s land, and Israel will fight all out against those who take over lands and try to set reality on the ground.”

Two men shelter from the sun in a makeshift metal structure next to their demolished houses. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

“Our village, illegal?,” says Abu Aasa. “We were here before the founding of Israel. The truth is that we are Arabs. If we had been Jews they would have moved the highway instead and expand our village.”

Last month the Be’er Sheva district court held a hearing after an appeal by Adalah, a non-profit, Palestinian-run legal centre whose name is Arabic for “justice”, against a lower court decision greenlighting the forced displacement of the entire population of more than 500 people from the Bedouin village of Ras Jrabah. The Bedouins have lived there for generations and have been fighting the state’s attempts to evict them to expand the nearby city of Dimona.

In the appeal, Adalah argued, among other things, that the magistrates court had committed a grave error in concluding that the residents of Ras Jrabah did not have a rightful claim to the land, despite acknowledging that the village has existed in its exact location for 45 years.

Before Israel’s creation in 1948, the Negev desert was home to approximately 92,000 Palestinian Bedouin. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, only 11,000 remained within Israel’s borders, according to Adalah, an advocacy group for Arab minorities in Israel. Many of them refused to be resettled in cities, and Bedouin have continued to face difficulties in Israeli society ever since.

Bedouin living in Negev, known for their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle as animal herders, have gradually shifted towards a sedentary existence in response to increasing restrictions on their mobility and livelihoods. Today, many of them have turned to agriculture as a primary means of supporting their communities and preserving their cultural heritage.

After the demolition of the houses, the camp, situated next to the highway, is a heap of rubble and twisted metal. Villagers claim that Israeli forces uprooted about 100 olive trees that the Bedouin used to produce high-quality olive oil. Children play barefoot among the debris of the demolitions, while camels, horses and goats roam freely. The animals were previously confined in pens. Some have vanished.

Tayaeer Abu Asda sets up an improvised tent for his family. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Abu Asda says the authorities are deploying drones to locate the temporary tents erected by the villagers, and the trees. “Some dismantle the tents during the day and set them up again before nightfall, but I cannot do that because I have children who suffer in the scorching sun during the day,” he says. “Today as well, I couldn’t go to work because I have to take care of the tent, fetch water.”

Many Bedouin from Wadi al-Khalil have lost their jobs due to the demolitions. “But we will not go away,” Abu Asda says. “They will have to remove us by force. This place has been our home for decades. We grew up here, and our children grew up here too. We will resist, no matter the cost.”