Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Israeli forces have demolished a recently built Palestinian primary school in the Masafer Yatta region of the southern occupied West Bank, where residents face constant threats of forced displacement.
Local residents and officials told Al Jazeera that the Israeli army raided the area on Wednesday morning and demolished the school in the village of Isfey al-Fauqa.
“Israeli occupation forces demolished a school while it was in use and students were inside,” the head of Masafer Yatta’s local council, Nidal Younis, told Al Jazeera.
“They used sound bombs to scare the kids and get them out of school,” he added.
Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday revoked a preliminary freezing order against a demolition order against the school, the Norwegian Refugee Council said.
The coordinator of government activities in the areas — COGAT, the Israeli military body responsible for administrative affairs in the occupied West Bank — said it demolished a building illegally constructed in an area designated a closed firing zone.
The institution was built about a month ago and has been in operation for less than two weeks. It served 22 students from four different villages in Masafer Yatta, up to fifth grade.
It is one of more than a dozen schools built in the occupied West Bank under a program by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education with funding from the European Union, Fadi al-Umour, a Masafer Yatta activist, told Al Jazeera.
All the schools built as part of this project are located in Area C — the 60 percent of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli military control — and are intended to challenge Israeli restrictions on Palestinian development there.
The European Union delegation to the Palestinians said it was “shocked by the news” of the demolition.
The Palestinian Education Ministry condemned the demolition in a statement Wednesday morning, describing it as a “heinous crime”.
“It adds to the series of ongoing crimes of the occupation against the education sector, and its targeting of children, students, educational cadres and institutions. [is] without regard to international charters and laws,” the statement continued, adding that such practices are “a flagrant violation of students’ right to a safe and free education.”
The ministry said it organized a visit by a delegation of diplomats and UN officials to the Isfey al-Fauqa school just a day before the demolition.
#MasaferYatta residents today welcomed us to the Isfey Al Fauqa school, which is under threat of demolition along with 4 other schools. By hindering access to education, these Palestinian communities are being pressured to leave their homes #SaveMasaferYatta #stopdemolitions pic.twitter.com/nrFUDifUtH
— Lynn Hastings (@LynnHastings) November 22, 2022
The school’s demolition comes days after an 18-year-old Palestinian student was shot dead by Israeli forces on his way to school just outside the Jenin refugee camp in the northern Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Al-Umour, the coordinator of Masafer Yatta’s Protection and Resilience Commission, explained that “construction of the Isfey School had not yet been completed when it was demolished, but the school was already operating”.
He added that the army also seized furniture from the school, including the students’ chairs, and said the school serves the four villages of Tuba, Isfey al-Fauqa, Isfey al-Tahta and Mughayyer al-Adeed.
The nearest other school to the villages is about four kilometers away.
“This occupation is targeting everything — it’s targeting our homes, education, our water, solar panels,” said Younis, the head of the municipality. “They think this will pressure people to leave so they can displace them so they can ethnically cleanse Masafer Yatta.”
Masafer Yatta, which falls in Area C, is a region south of Hebron where about eight villages, home to more than 1,200 Palestinians, including 500 children, face threats of forced displacement from Israeli authorities based on a May ruling 2022 of the Israeli Supreme Court of Justice.
The ruling ended a more than two-decade legal battle by residents against their displacement. The Israeli army now has the green light to demolish their homes and evict them at any time under the pretext that they live in an Israeli army “fire zone”.
Many families in this region lived there before the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967. They earn their living as herders and farmers, but face a large number of oppressive Israeli military policy including restrictions on the maintenance and development of their homes, and barriers to access to the electricity and water network.
They are also surrounded by a belt of illegal Israeli settlements and live under systematic violence from the Israeli police, army and settlers.
An international digital campaign has been launched by activists and activist groups in Palestine and abroad, under the hashtag #SaveMasaferYatta, in hopes of drawing attention to the imminent risk facing residents and pressuring Israel to stop its displacement efforts. to strike.