Aid groups: Palestinian school under imminent threat of demolition by Israel

A Palestinian primary school funded by European donors is under threat of imminent demolition by Israeli occupation authorities, according to a statement by aid agencies this morning.

A statement issued in the name of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Action Against Hunger and Save the Children said the Israeli Supreme Court has dismissed a petition to safeguard the school, which serves the Palestinian community of Al-Muntar in the occupied West Bank.

Al-Muntar, which is located in so-called “Area C” of the West Bank, close to occupied East Jerusalem, has “already suffered displacement and destruction of property in the past”, the statement says.

The threatened school is the “only one” serving the community, the NGOs say, with 33 pupils aged 5-11 currently attending, though “it was meant to be expanded to receive over 70 pupils this year”.

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Israel’s Supreme Court, however, sitting as the High Court of Justice, has ruled that the school constitutes an illegitimate attempt “to create facts on the ground”. The school thus “risks being demolished from 1st February onwards, when an injunction protecting it from demolition expires”.

The Norwegian Refugee Council’s Country Director in Palestine, Kate O’Rourke, slammed the court’s claim that the school creates “facts on the ground”.

“In reality,” she stated, “these are being created by illegal settlements, not by Palestinian schools, which are needed to ensure Palestinian children’s fundamental right to education.”

Attacks on West Bank schools are one of many elements making up the coercive environment that pushes Palestinians off their land in order to make way for Israeli settlement expansion.

According to the aid groups, new figures “reveal there are 61 schools in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, that have pending demolition or stop work orders from the Israeli authorities”.

In 2016, meanwhile, “there were 256 education-related violations affecting 29,230 students across the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.

These included “threats of violence and harassment from Israeli settlers or soldiers on the journey to school, military activity in or around their schools, military or police arresting and detaining children from their classrooms, lost time due to the closure of a military area or firing zone, delays crossing checkpoints, threats of destruction and demolition of schools and stop work orders.”

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The Country Director for Action Against Hunger, Gonzalo Codina, said: “The existing Palestinian schools are overstretched, and the Israeli authorities are not issuing the required building permits for Palestinian communities like the one at Al-Muntar. Now that a donor-funded school is again at risk of being demolished, we have to ask: Where can these children study safely?”

Meanwhile, Save the Children’s Country Director Jennifer Moorehead warned that “children’s fundamental right to education is under growing threat”.

“The school in Al-Muntar, a very remote and vulnerable community, has enabled children and especially girls to attend school for the first time. Now children as young as five face having their future demolished before their eyes.”

She added: “We urgently call on the international community to increase diplomatic pressure on the Israeli government to protect Palestinian children’s right to education and to prevent the demolition and seizure of school infrastructure.”

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