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School in Bedouin community reportedly faces demolition by Israeli government

Aug. 15, 2016 9:54 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 16, 2016 1:04 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A decision by the Israeli prime minister’s office to close a primary school in a Bedouin community east of Jerusalem is reportedly set to be reviewed by the Israeli Supreme Court on Tuesday, according to a local spokesperson, though an Israeli official denied to Ma’an that any such decision had been reached.

The Khan al-Ahmar school, located in the sensitive E1 area northeast of Jerusalem and west of the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the occupied West Bank, has been slated for destruction by the state of Israel for years.

Spokesperson for the Bedouin communities in the Jerusalem district Eid Khamis Abu Daouk told Ma’an on Sunday that Israel's office of the prime minister had recently summoned the Italian ambassador to inform him of the decision to close the school, without providing further details of the meeting.

The Israeli official also denied that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the Italian ambassador, but it remained unclear if the ambassador had met with another official representing the prime minister’s office.

According to Abu Daouk, the alleged 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 building permits are nearly impossible to obtain.

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

Some 20 families of the village’s Jahalin Bedouin community were left homeless by demolitions last August.

The reports came after a delegation from the Palestinian Ministry of Education visited the school on Sunday to affirm their support ahead of the new school school year, scheduled to start this week, despite ongoing Israeli measures threatening to demolish the school.

Minister Sabri Saidam condemned efforts to demolish any school in Area C as “completely unacceptable,” and said the ministry remained committed to assisting the community to thwart such efforts.

E1 is an area northeast of Jerusalem and west of the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim. Israeli plans for settlement construction in the area have been strongly opposed by the international community, including the US.

Critics say Israeli settlement construction in E1 would divide the West Bank in two and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state -- as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict -- virtually impossible.

B’Tselem released a report revealing that Israeli authorities have demolished more Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank in the first six months of 2016 as they did in all of 2015, in what rights groups argue is a worrying indicator that Israel intends to annex the entirety of Area C.
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