Israel demolishes Palestinian schools just as children return from summer holiday

Israel Destroys Palestinian Schools 2
Israeli authorities dismantled and confiscated solar panels, the only source of power, at this primary school in Abu Nuwar (Norwegian Refugee Council)

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies, Right to education, Safe schools, Safe Schools Declaration

The Norwegian Refugee Council said it was "heartbreaking" to discover the classrooms had been destroyed or dismantled in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian children going back to school after the summer break were shocked to find their classrooms had been demolished or damaged.

Some ended up getting their lessons yesterday in tents or outside in the heat after Israeli authorities dismantled the buildings in the occupied West Bank.

“It was heartbreaking to see children and their teachers turning up for their first day of school under the blazing sun, with no classrooms or anywhere to seek shelter,” said Itay Epshtain, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Policy Manager.

“Meanwhile in the immediate vicinity the work to expand illegal settlements goes on uninterrupted.”

The only kindergarten for the Jabal Al Baba Bedouin community was destroyed in the early hours of August 21. A primary school in Jubbet Al Dhib was demolished on the night of August 22. 

NRC said the Israeli authorities also dismantled and confiscated solar panels – the only source of power – at a primary school in Abu Nuwar. 

Israel Destroys Palestinian Schools 1

Temporary schools have been set up in other buildings such as this barber shop where third-grade students in Abu Nuwar get lessons (Norwegian Refugee Council)

“Just when they were due to return to the classroom, Palestinian children are discovering that their schools are being destroyed,” said the NRC’s Country Director for Palestine, Hanibal Abiy Worku. 

“What threat do these schools pose to the Israeli authorities? What are they planning to achieve by denying thousands of children their fundamental right to education?”

The events in the West Bank come as 55 schools are threatened with demolition and “stop work” orders by Israeli authorities. 

Many of the schools are funded by donors, including European Union member states. 

In a statement, the EU expressed “strong concern about the recent confiscations of Palestinian school structures undertaken by Israel in Bedouin communities in the occupied West Bank”.

It added: “Every child has the right to safe access to education and states have an obligation to protect, respect and fulfil this right, by ensuring that schools are inviolable safe spaces for children.”

The destruction of educational structures funded by European money is not just a violation of international law... it is also a slap in the face to the international community providing aid. Hanibal Abiy Worku, Country Director for Palestine, Norwegian Refugee Council

NRC said Israel denies the majority of Palestinian planning permit requests in the West Bank’s Area C – leaving Palestinians with no option but to reconstruct and develop without permits while Israeli settlements continue to expand in violation of international law.

The primary school in Abu Nawar was also attacked twice last year when parts of it were demolished and equipment confiscated.

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said the removal of the school in Jubbet Al Dhib had left 80 students without classrooms.

It added: “The school consisted of six pre-fabs donated by the European Union that the security forces dismantled and confiscated. The area was declared a closed military zone and security forces used stun grenades to keep residents away.

“The demolition of a school building the night before the start of the year epitomises the administrative cruelty and systematic harassment by authorities designed to drive Palestinians from their land.”

The Norwegian Refugee Council’s education programmes helped more than 45,000 Palestinians in 2016. It works in schools run by the government and UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees) to help provide quality education and decrease dropout rates

NRC’s Worku said: “We call on the governments and donors funding Palestinian children’s education to exercise all of their influence to prevent this violation in all its forms.

“The destruction of educational structures funded by European money is not just a violation of international law. 

“It is also a slap in the face to the international community providing aid to the occupied Palestinian population in a bid to ensure safe places of learning for children.”

COGAT, the Israeli civil administration which oversees construction in the West Bank, said the structures did not have proper permits.

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