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Israel confiscates tent used as classroom by Bedouin community after school demolition

Oct. 6, 2016 5:23 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 7, 2016 2:48 P.M.)
A Palestinian Bedouin woman stands next to her destroyed tent in the village of Atouf in the Jordan Valley. (AFP/Saif Dahlah, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces reportedly confiscated a tent used as a classroom in the Bedouin community of Abu Nuwwar on Tuesday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told Ma’an on Thursday.

OCHA Communications and Information Analyst Ofir Feuerstein told Ma’an that “Israeli authorities confiscated a tent in Abu Nuwwar” -- part of the contentious "E1 corridor" located just east of Jerusalem municipal boundaries -- on Tuesday.

“According to OCHA's information, the tent was placed following a demolition of a classroom and a concrete ground that took place on Sept. 27,” he added.

A spokesperson for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in Palestinian territory, told Ma'an that the tent was "confiscated due to its illegal location and absence of required permits, one week after enforcement measures were carried out against the illegal structure at that location." 

The spokesperson added that the Israeli Civil Administration had "developed the foundation of the land for hundreds of families from the Jahalin [Bedouin] tribe that are settling illegally in the area of Maale Adumim," adding that the relocation plan would provide lands, housing, water, electricty, and draining systems to the Bedouin, while "maintaining the population's way of life." 

"Today, the plan is prepared for families to reside in this location, but unfortunately, the Bedouin population refuses to reach an agreement in order to resolve this issue and continues building illegal structures in the area," the spokesperson added. 

In contradiction to these statements, rights groups and Bedouin community members themselves have sharply criticized Israel's relocation plans for the Bedouin residing near the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, claiming that the removal would displace indigenous Palestinians for the sake of expanding Israeli settlements across the occupied West Bank in violation of international law. 

Israeli authorities demolished the classroom in September, which had been used to serve 15 third-graders, and also leveled the school's yard.

The school was a movable structure made of wood and tin sheets donated by the European Commission.

A spokesperson for COGAT told Ma'an at the time that “enforcement measures were carried out against an illegal structure that was built without the required permits in Abu Nuwwar."

Israel has come under repeated international condemnation over demolitions of EU-funded structures, with some accusing the Israeli government of demolishing Palestinian structures in retaliation for the EU’s decision in November to enforce labeling laws that would indicate if a product was produced in one of Israel’s 196 illegal settlements.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Palestine Robert Piper warned in August of the heightened risk of forcible transfer for the Abu Nuwwar community, one of several Bedouin villages facing forced relocation due to plans by Israeli authorities to build thousands of homes for Jewish-only settlements in the E1 corridor.

The “E1 corridor,” a contentious zone set up by the Israeli government to link annexed East Jerusalem with the mega settlement of Maale Adumim, would virtually cut the occupied West Bank in half, making the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.

A school in the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, also located in E1, 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 most recent 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.”

“Is Palestinian education a threat to Israel?” Dajani asked in the statement.

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