Negev (nĕgˈĕv) [key] or Negeb nĕgˈĕb [Heb., = dry], hilly desert region of S Israel, c.5,140 sq mi (13,310 sq km), bordered by the Judaean Hills, the Wadi Arabah, the Sinai peninsula, and the narrow Mediterranean coastal plain; it comprises more than one half of Israel's land area. The Negev receives c.2 to 4 in. (5–10 cm) of rain annually. In the Beersheba basin, NW Negev, there are fertile loess deposits, but the region's aridity prevented cultivation until irrigation was provided by the National Water Carrier Project, which taps the Sea of Galilee. The Negev region also has a good mineral potential; copper, phosphates, and natural gas are already commercially extracted. In ancient times there were several prosperous cities along the principal wadis (watercourses) of the area. In modern times the Negev was the scene of much fighting between Egyptian and Israeli forces after the partition of Palestine in 1948. Many kibbutzim (see collective farm) are located in the Negev; dry farming has been attempted in some areas. The major cities in the region include Beersheba, Dimona, Arad, and Elat.
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