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Palestinian PM denounces Israeli demolition order on Bedouin village school

Aug. 17, 2016 8:37 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 18, 2016 3:15 P.M.)
(AFP, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian prime minister’s office condemned on Wednesday an Israeli demolition order on a primary school in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the Jerusalem area.

The Khan al-Ahmar school, which accommodates 160 students from five different Bedouin communities, is located in the sensitive E1 area northeast of Jerusalem and west of the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the occupied West Bank. It has been slated for destruction by Israeli authorities for years.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah reiterated his support for the Bedouin community in a statement, saying that “Everyone is entitled to education; it is a fundamental human right. We stand with the community of Khan al Ahmar and we commend all those who are supporting it.”

Jamal Dajani, director of strategic communications at the prime minister’s office, added that Israeli authorities used “every excuse in the book to prevent the advancement of Palestinian communities in Area C," adding that Israel “should not be allowed to deprive our children of educational opportunities.”

“Is Palestinian education a threat to Israel?” Dajani asked in the statement.

Palestinian Minister of Education Sabri Saidam announced the start of the academic year two weeks early in order to defy Israel’s closure and demolition orders, according to the statement.

According to the spokesperson for the Bedouin communities in the Jerusalem district, Eid Khamis Abu Daouk, the decision was made on the basis that the school was built in an “unsafe and unhealthy environment” and located in Area C -- the more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli control where Israeli-issued building permits are nearly impossible to obtain for Palestinians.

However, the statement highlighted that the closure and demolition of the school were part of a larger Israeli plan to forcibly transfer at least 2,800 Bedouins living in the Jerusalem area in order to expand surrounding Israeli settlements, adding that the transfers would contravene international law according to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits forcible transfers of populations.

The school was built in 2009 by Italian aid organization Vento Di Terra and other volunteers in the village constructed using tires, clay, and a wooden roof because Israeli authorities forbade the use of stone and concrete.

A month after it was built, the Israel’s Civil Administration issued a demolition order against the structure, arguing that it was too close to a main road for which expansion plans were already approved.

Three petitions have since been submitted by Israeli settlers living nearby to enforce the demolition order, each being struck down by the Israeli Supreme Court. Most recently in May 2014, the court rejected the petition, noting “their wish to avoid harming minors.”

However, Israel’s Civil Administration has enforced demolitions of the school's Italian government-donated equipment, and the general community of Khan al-Ahmar has been subject to Israeli-enforced demolitions over the years, mostly recently this April.

An official from the Italian Embassy told Ma’an that they had made “ongoing contacts with the Israeli authorities” concerning the demolition order.

Israel’s Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday that Israel’s Supreme Court had requested that the state provide its opinion on the issue by early this week. However, the state reportedly asked for a delay until next week.

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