Israeli forces raided the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank northeast of Jerusalem on Sunday morning to deliver demolition orders to classrooms for the village’s primary school, locals told Ma’an News Agency, while 40 homes in the community were also reportedly delivered demolition orders.
Locals told Ma’an that Israeli forces surrounded the school – which has been threatened with demolition by the Israeli government for years – as faculty and students were prevented from accessing the building.
Israeli soldiers imposed a military closure on Khan al-Ahmar before they stormed the village’s school to deliver the demolition warrants, sources said.
Official Palestinian news agency Wafa meanwhile reported that Israeli authorities also issued demolition order against 40 Palestinian-owned houses in Khan al-Ahmar on Sunday morning.
Eid al-Jahalin, a witness, told Wafa that Israeli forces raided the area in the early dawn hours and notified residents that they had until February 23 to leave their homes.
In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in Palestinian territory, confirmed that “construction termination warrants” were issued against an unspecified number of buildings in Khan al-Ahmar, adding that enforcement of the orders “will take place in coordination with state directives and required legal certifications,” without providing further details.
Palestinian Minister of Education Sabri Saydam denounced the Israeli raid on the school, describing it as a “systematic and abusive procedure.”
The raid came as the latest in a years-long legal battle waged by the Israeli government and residents of illegal Israeli settlements surrounding Khan al-Ahmar to demolish and relocate the school, which was built in 2009 with the assistance of an Italian NGO, Vento Di Terra, using ecological methods including construction out of used tires.
In August last year, after reports emerged that the Israeli prime minister’s office ordered the school to be closed down, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered that the state of Israel provide a formal opinion on the school the following week.
In October, the state postponed issuing a decision at the Supreme Court for four months.
Now, some four months later, the status of case remained unclear. A spokesperson for the Israeli Justice Ministry told Ma’an they were looking into the details of the case.
The Israeli NGO Rabbis For Human Rights, who assists the Khan al-Ahmar community with legal and other support and confirmed reports of Sunday’s raid, had previously speculated that Israel was avoiding making a decision as a result of the immense international pressure not to demolish the school, which has become one of the most high-profile targets of Israel’s massive demolition campaign against Palestinian homes and livelihood structures.
Khan al-Ahmar, like other Bedouin communities in the region, is under threat of relocation by Israel for being located in the contentious “E1 corridor” set up by the Israeli government to link annexed East Jerusalem with the mega settlement of Maale Adumim.