JERUSALEM, Israel has ordered the demolition of a Palestinian school in a Bedouin village east of Jerusalem, claiming it had not been licensed by Israeli authorities.
A protest took place Wednesday at the al-Khan al-Ahmar primary school, which serves 170 Palestinian boys and girls from first to ninth grade and was built in 2009 with funds from the Italian government. The protest was organized by the Palestinian Ministry of Education.
The lawyer representing the Bedouin communities and the Italian ambassador to Israel were informed Monday of the Israeli government’s plans to close the school, said Eid Khamis, a spokesman for the Bedouins in the region.
The school is located in Area C, which represents 60 percent of the West Bank and is fully controlled by Israel. The Israeli government bulldozed a school in another Bedouin village in Area C in March, along with 17 homes.
The High Court of Justice is hearing a petition on the school.
The court also is hearing appeals on whether the village’s agricultural lands in the South Hebron Hills region of the West Bank can be used for permanent housing.
Last week, the European Union called on Israel to stop demolitions of Palestinian structures.
The EU noted that 107 Palestinian structures have been demolished, displacing 136 people, including 60 children, in the Arab village of Sussiya.
“The Israeli authorities must halt demolitions of Palestinian houses and property, in accordance with its obligations as an occupying power under international humanitarian law, and to cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, of designating land for exclusive Israeli use and of denying Palestinian development,” the European Union said in a statement last Friday.
The statement went on to say the move to demolish Palestinian buildings is “steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution and raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions.”
Italian aid organization Vento Di Terra helped the Jahalin Bedouin community build the school.
The Italian ambassador was summoned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the matter, Shlomo Lecker, the attorney representing the Jerusalem-based Bedouin community, told Al Jazeera.
“I spoke to the Italian ambassador several days ago after his meeting with Netanyahu,” Lecker told Al Jazeera. He said the ambassador learned an official order would be issued to close down the school.
“In response to these orders, the Palestinian Ministry of Education decided to open the school a week earlier than originally planned,” Lecker said. “This might make any plans of closure more difficult to carry out.”
The Israeli Civil Administration, the governing body of Israel’s occupation in the West Bank, issued a demolition order one month after the school opened because it was near a proposed road expansion, according to a report released by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
The school is “essential to the community,” said Khalid Quzmar, a lawyer with Defense for Children International, which advocated for Palestinian children’s right in occupied territories, told Al Jazeera .
“There is no justification behind closing down the school. It was built using mud and tires to avoid breaking laws that prohibit Palestinians from using cement in construction,” he said. “Israeli authorities always claim that buildings are closed down or demolished because they were built without permits. But how are Palestinians going to get permits when Israeli authorities oftentimes refuse to grant them?”
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 2013 to relocate Jahalin Bedouins to near Jericho, which is under Palestinian Authority control.
By Allen Cone