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Israel postpones decision regarding fate of Bedouin school

Oct. 27, 2016 3:29 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 28, 2016 12:21 P.M.)
A Bedouin camp near the illegal settlement of Maale Adumim in the occupied West Bank. (AFP/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The state of Israel has postponed this week 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.

A source, who spoke to Ma’an on condition of anonymity, said on Thursday that a ruling was postponed by four months, leaving the school “off the hook until the decision is made.”

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.

The announcement came days after a European Union delegation visited Khan al-Ahmar, which, like the nearby Abu Nuwwar community, is under threat of relocation by Israel.

Both are located in the contentious “E1 corridor,” set up by the Israeli government to link annexed East Jerusalem with the mega settlement of Maale Adumim.

In August, after reports emerged that the Israeli prime minister's office ordered the school in Khan al-Ahmar to be closed down, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the state of Israel provide a formal opinion on the school the following week.

More than two months later, the Israeli NGO Rabbis For Human Rights speculated last week that they believed Israel was avoiding making a decision as a result of the immense international pressure not to demolish the school, built of mud and tires, which has become one of the most high-profile targets of Israel's massive demolition campaign against Palestinian homes and livelihood structures.

In response to the 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.

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.

Earlier this month, Israeli authorities demolished eight homes in Khan al-Ahmar, leaving 28 Palestinians, 18 of them minors, homeless.

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.

Khan al-Ahmar is 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.

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

Israeli activity in E1 has attracted widespread international condemnation, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has in the past said that "E1 is a red line that cannot be crossed."

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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