Capture of Ramallah, West Bank – Israeli forces have demolished a recently built Palestinian primary school in the Masafar Yatta area of the southern occupied West Bank, where residents face an ongoing threat of forced displacement.
Locals and officials told Al Jazeera that the Israeli army raided the area on Wednesday morning and demolished the school located in the village of Isfi al-Fouka.
“The Israeli occupation forces demolished a school during the session and the students were inside,” Nidal Yunus, head of the local council of Masafar Yatta, told Al Jazeera.
“They used sound bombs to scare children and get them out of school,” he said.
The Israeli High Court of Justice on Wednesday revoked an interim injunction blocking a demolition order against the school, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories – COGAT, the Israeli military body responsible for administrative affairs in the occupied West Bank – said it demolished a building illegally constructed in an area designated as a closed firing zone.
The institute was created about a month ago and was functional for less than two weeks. It served 22 students from four different villages in Masafar Yatta till class V.
It is one of more than a dozen schools built in the occupied West Bank under a program Fadi al-Umor, an activist from Masafar Yatta by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education with funding from the European Union, told Al Jazeera.
All schools built as part of the project are located in Area C – the 60 percent of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli military control – and are intended to challenge Israel’s restrictions on Palestinian development there.
The EU Delegation to the Palestinians said it was “appalled by the news” of the demolition.
The Palestinian Ministry of Education condemned the demolition in a statement on Wednesday morning, calling it a “heinous crime”.
“This is an addition to the ongoing series of crimes against the educational sector and targeting children, students, educational cadres and institutions. [is] regardless of international charters and laws,” the statement continued, adding that such practices “are a gross violation of students’ right to safe and free education”.
The ministry said that just a day before the demolition, a visit was organized to the Isfi al-Fouka school by a delegation of diplomats and UN officials.
#MasaferYatta Residents welcomed us today at Isfay Al Fouka School, which is under imminent threat of demolition along with 4 other schools. Barriers to access to education push these Palestinian communities to leave their homes #SaveMasaferYatta #stop demolition pic.twitter.com/nrFUDifUtH
— Lynn Hastings (@LynnHastings) November 22, 2022
school demolition comes after an 18 year old Palestinian student shot dead by Israeli forces when he was on his way to school just outside the Jenin refugee camp in northern Israel’s occupied West Bank.
Al-Umor, coordinator of Masafar Yatta’s Security and Resilience Committee, explained that “the construction of the Isfay school was not completed when it was demolished, but the school was already operating”.
He said the army also confiscated furniture from the school, including students’ chairs, and added that the school serves four villages in Tuba, Isfay al-Fouka, Isfay al-Tahta and Mughayyar al-Adid.
The other school closest to the villages is about four kilometers away.
Council chief Yunus said, “This occupation targets everything – it targets our homes, education, our water, solar panels.” “They think it will pressure people to leave so that they can displace them, that they can ethnically cleanse the Masafar Yatta.”
Masafer Yatta, which falls in Area C, an area south of Hebron, where some eight villages, home to more than 1,200 Palestinians, including 500 children, are subject to imminent forcible resettlement by Israeli authorities based on a May 2022 ruling by Israel’s High Court facing displacement. of Justice.
The ruling concluded an over two-decade-long legal battle waged by the residents against their displacement. The Israeli army now has the green light to demolish their homes and evict them at any moment under the pretext that they live in an Israeli army “firing zone”.
Prior to Israel’s annexation of the West Bank in 1967, many families in the area lived there. They make their living as herders and farmers, but face a myriad repressive Israeli military policies These include restrictions on maintaining and developing their homes, and barriers to accessing electricity grids and water networks.
They are surrounded by a belt of illegal Israeli settlements and live under systematic violence from the Israeli police, army and settlers.
An international digital campaign has been launched by activists and action groups in Palestine and abroad under the hashtag #SaveMasaferYatta, in hopes of drawing attention to the imminent risk facing the residents and pressuring Israel to halt its displacement efforts. Is.