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'Challenge 5 School' inaugurated in Jubbet al-Dhib, rebuilt after Israeli demolition

Sept. 10, 2017 2:29 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 12, 2017 10:33 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian Minister of Education Sabri Saydam inaugurated a school in the village of Jubbet al-Dhib in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem Sunday morning, after the school was dismantled by Israeli forces and rebuilt by Palestinians.

Israeli forces seized mobile classrooms in the isolated village last month, the day before the first day of school. Activists and ministry employees rebuilt five classrooms overnight Friday.

Israeli forces then stormed the village Saturday evening, surrounded the construction site, and attacked activists with tear gas, stun grenades, and bullets, sparking fears that Israeli authorities would destroy the school once again.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Administration told Ma’an that "work tools were confiscated" as a result of the raid, but that for now, the structures -- deemed ‘illegal’ by Israel -- have remained standing.

The newly rebuilt school has been named “Challenge 5 School,” because it was the fifth school to be constructed by the ministry in areas threatened by Israeli settlement construction, according to the education ministry's Bethlehem office and the Palestinian Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, which supervised Saturday morning’s inauguration.

Head of the committee Walid Assaf attended the inauguration along with the Governor of Bethlehem Jibrin al-Bakri and representatives of local and European organizations. "We will access our right to education and freedom by any means necessary," Assaf said in a speech during the inauguration.

“When the occupation disassembled the school, we decided to rebuild it immediately. Our battle was one of survival and steadfastness, so we rebuilt and fully prepared a school of five classrooms in less than 24 hours," he said. Assaf said that Israeli troops stormed the school after it was rebuilt in order to "demolish this achievement.”

The Palestinian Authority official explained that the Civil Administration forces confiscated a vehicle Saturday night. "Nevertheless, the school remained and the flag is still waving on top of the school. And here we are, handing the keys to the ministry of education to continue the struggle," Assaf said.

Minister of Education Sabri Saydam reiterated in a separate speech that inaugurating the school was a challenge to the "occupation's policies, which seek to deprive the schoolchildren of safe education."

Saydam urged international human rights organization and international media outlets to help put an end to the Israeli occupation's policies and protect Palestinian educational organizations. "Rebuilding Challenge 5 School is a message of our steadfastness in the face of death and displacement enacted by the occupation."

Israel’s targeting of the school came after after Israeli authorities also confiscated solar panels that powered a school in the Bedouin village of Abu Nuwar and demolished a kindergarten in the Bedouin community of Jabal al-Baba leading up to the beginning of the new school year.

Each of the schools are located in Area C -- the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control.

In July, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated that Israeli restrictions in Area C had made it “virtually impossible” for Palestinians to obtain building permits there, unlike Israeli settlers, who were often granted building permits.

According to OCHA, as a result of such Israeli policies, more than a third of Palestinian communities in Area C lack primary schools, forcing children to travel long distances to obtain an education.

The European Union condemned Israeli forces for dismantling the school last month, saying that “Every child has the right to safe access to education and States have an obligation to protect, respect and fulfill this right, by ensuring that schools are inviolable safe spaces for children.”

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) also released a statement at the time, describing the confiscation as part of Israel’s "wider attack on education in Palestine."

According to NRC, some 55 schools in the occupied West Bank are threatened with demolition and stop-work orders by Israeli authorities, many of them built with funding from the European Union states and other donors.
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