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Palestinians rebuild school dismantled by Israel last month in Jubbet al-Dhib

Sept. 9, 2017 12:16 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 9, 2017 10:17 P.M.)
Palestinians rebuild dismantled school in Jubbet al-Dhib
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinians in the village of Jubbet al-Dhib in the occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem rebuilt a school overnight on Friday that was dismantled in the village a day before the first day of school last month, which left some 64 students without a school to attend.

Employees from the Bethlehem office of the Palestinian education ministry and activists rebuilt five classrooms with concrete blocks at the site of a school that was confiscated by Israeli forces last month.

According to witnesses, Palestinian youths and activists continued to reconstruct the school despite Israeli soldiers firing tear gas canisters at them. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an she would look into reports of the Israeli army attempting to suppress the action.

The school's reconstruction was organized by the Education Directorate in the Bethlehem district, the Resisting Walls and Settlements Committee, residents of Beit Taamar village, and the Palestinian construction planning committee.

The dismantled school, which had consisted of eight mobile homes, was set up to serve several small communities in the area that face challenges attending school owing to the distance between the villages and the nearest school. The school served students from the 1st to 4th grade.

Sami Mruwweh, director of the Bethlehem office of the ministry of education, said that after the school was confiscated, the children in the village have been “suffering” due to walking long distances to schools in other areas.

He noted that the school constructed in Jubbet al-Dhib Friday night was the fifth school to be constructed by the Palestinian ministry of eduction in areas of the West Bank targeted by Israeli settlement construction.

“These schools are being built in defiance of the Israeli occupation's settlement expansion and other policies seeking to displace Palestinian families and deprive children of their right to receive appropriate education in safe and stable environments,” he added.

The confiscation of the school last month came days after the village received stop-work orders from Israeli authorities, even though the residents had insisted that they had already received the necessary Israeli permits to construct the school.
The European Union Representative and the EU Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah issued a statement condemning the dismantlement of the school, along with other recent instances of Israeli authorities targeting education instititions in the occupied West Bank, including the confiscation of solar panels that powered a school in the Bedouin village of Abu Nuwar in the Jerusalem district and the demolition of a kindergarten in the Bedouin community of Jabal al-Baba in the outskirts of al-Eizariya.

“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 statement said.

The EU missions demanded that Israel halt demolitions and confiscations of Palestinian property and that properties that have already been confiscated be returned to Palestinians.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) also released a statement at the time condemning Israel for the confiscation as part of "a wider attack on education in Palestine."

NRC Policy Manager Itay Epshtain, who visited Jubbet al-Dhib, was quoted in the statement as saying, “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 in, while in the immediate vicinity the work to expand illegal settlements goes on uninterrupted.”

According to NRC, some 55 schools in the occupied West Bank are threatened with demolition and stop-work orders by Israeli authorities, many of them built with funding from the European Union states and other donors.

Israeli rights group B'Tselem also condemned the demolition, saying that the move "epitomizes the administrative cruelty and systematic harassment by authorities designed to drive Palestinians from their land."

Palestinians living in Area C -- the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control -- must apply for construction permits with the Israeli civil administration for any kind of development on their lands. However, the vast majority of these requests are denied and the application process can be lengthy and expensive.

Israeli forces confiscated solar panels in Jubbet al-Dhib in June that were installed last year with funding from the Dutch government, under the pretext that they were built without permits.

Rights groups have highlighted that Israel’s permit system in Area C has served to limit Palestinian construction in Israeli-controlled areas of the Palestinian territory, where the land is reoriented for the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements or for other purposes serving the Israeli government or settlers.

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