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Israel issues building permits for two primary schools in Area C

Nov. 7, 2016 4:08 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 7, 2016 7:56 P.M.)

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israel’s Civil Administration issued building permits on Sunday for two Palestinian schools in the southern occupied West Bank districts of Bethlehem and Hebron, according to Israel’s Coordinator of Government Affairs in the Territories (COGAT).

COGAT, which is responsible for enforcing the Israeli government’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, issued a statement saying that building permissions were granted to the schools, which are both located in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli security and civilian control.

The building permits retroactively legalized previously constructed parts of the al-Tawani school in the south of Hebron, and the al-Jaba school in southwest Bethlehem.

According to the agreement, al-Tawani school will be allowed to consist of 14 classrooms hosting 330 students, while al-Jaba school will be allowed to consist of 11 classrooms hosting 300 students.

Israeli Civil Administration Colonel Achvat Ben Hur announced that the administration would follow up with the construction process of the additional parts of the schools “to ensure that the construction processes are being completed in accordance with law and determined specifications.”

Ben Hur added that all Palestinian construction in Area C “must be built with the approval of the planning authority of the civil administration,” saying that the civil administration “will not allow any illegal constructions.”

Meanwhile, Israel postponed last month its decision regarding the fate of a primary school in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank, which has been threatened with demolition by the Israeli government for years.

Located in the contentious “E1 corridor,” set up by the Israeli government to link annexed East Jerusalem with the mega settlement of Maale Adumim, the school in Khan al-Ahmar -- which was partially funded by an Italian organization and the Italian government -- has long been slated for demolition by the Israeli government.

In response to the demolition order against the school, Jamal Dajani, director of strategic communications at the Palestinian prime minister’s office said 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.”

At least 780 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C have been destroyed by Israel since the beginning of the year as of mid-October, compared to a total of 453 structures over the entirety of 2015, according to the United Nations.

Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, although the estimated 550,000 Jewish Israeli settlers are more easily given building permits and allowed to expand their homes and properties.

Nearly all Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C -- the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control -- are denied by the Israeli authorities, forcing communities to build illegally.

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