(Jabbet ad-Dhib) Israeli authorities on Sunday destroyed a school in a village in the southern occupied West Bank, relying on a court ruling to call it “illegal” and “dangerous”, a demolition immediately denounced by the local representation of the European Union, the source of its funding.
According to AFP correspondents, bulldozers intervened at dawn to destroy this small primary school located in Jabbet Ad-Dhib, in the Bethlehem region, after the expiry of a two-month ultimatum from Israeli justice.
According to the same sources, at the time of the demolition, ordered by the Jerusalem District Court according to the Israeli side, the modest structure was empty and the equipment had been moved.
Clashes erupted between villagers, who threw stones and set tires on fire, and Israeli security forces, who used tear gas and stun grenades.
The school, which accommodates 45 children, had already been destroyed in 2019 and then rebuilt, said Ahmed Nasser, an official with the Palestinian Ministry of Education contacted by AFP. He said a tent would be erected on Monday to accommodate the students, with the provision of basic services like water and electricity.
In a statement, Cogat, the Israeli Defense Ministry body overseeing civilian activities in the Palestinian Territories, claimed the structure was “illegally built without a permit.” He added that it posed “a danger to its occupants”, based in particular on the conclusions of an engineer as to the risk of the building collapsing.
Ahmed Nasser rejected this argument and stressed the importance of the existence of such schools in remote villages in the occupied West Bank.
It helps prevent “displacement and forced eviction (of the population, editor’s note), insofar as Israel wants to confiscate these lands”, he said. “The presence of population prevents them from doing so.”
At the origin of the legal request, Regavim, an Israeli pro-colonization NGO, on the contrary considered that this construction fell within the framework of a Palestinian policy aimed at “building a structure on virgin land, proclaiming that it is a school, and then make its demolition a humanitarian matter.”
The EU Representation for the Palestinian Territories said it was “dismayed” by the demolition, a practice “illegal under international law”, and urged the Israeli authorities to “respect children’s right to ‘education “.
“Israel should stop all demolitions and evictions, which only increase the suffering of the Palestinian population and heighten existing tensions,” she added in a statement.
Nearly three million Palestinians live in the West Bank, a territory occupied by Israel since 1967. About 490,000 Jewish settlers also live there in settlements considered by the UN to be illegal under international law.