Two new Palestinian schools in the occupied West Bank, funded by European governments, are under threat of destruction and seizure, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
An Israeli court has already ordered students not to attend class in one of them, the NGO says.
Built over the last year with European funding, the schools in Wadi as-Seeq and Al Muntar serve Palestinian Bedouin communities who have long suffered neglect and discrimination at the hands of the Israeli occupation authorities.
Many of the families served by the schools have “already suffered destruction of their property over many years”, NRC states.
Now, the schools are the subject of Israeli court proceedings “that could lead to their destruction and seizure”, with hearings scheduled for 20 November and 10 December.
Abu Hassan, a parent and community representative, said that the children “do not have any other place to study in our community. This school allows our children to study without having to leave our community and use risky roads close to the nearby [Israeli] settlement”.
The NRC’s Information Counselling and Legal Aid Programme is providing humanitarian legal assistance to represent the communities in court.
Once again, Palestinian children are facing the traumatic prospect of turning up for school and finding that it no longer exists
said NRC Country Director in Palestine Kate O’Rourke.
“Once again we have to ask: Why are children being denied their fundamental right to education? This attack on schools is part of a wider drive to forcibly transfer Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem to create space for illegal settlement expansion.”
O’Rourke added that NRC and other NGOs are urging “the governments and donors funding Palestinian children’s education to increase diplomatic pressure to prevent the demolition and seizure of school infrastructure, which is in violation of International Humanitarian Law.”
Both donor-funded schools of Al Muntar and Wadi as-Seeq serve over 100 pupils, with the former expected to expand its intake in February 2018. The Wadi as-Seeq school community, meanwhile, “has received 11 stop-work orders for their structures in the last nine years”.
Two structures were demolished in 2012 and 2014, and all mobile latrines provided by a local NGO in 2011 were confiscated by Israeli occupation authorities.
Earlier this year, Israeli occupation authorities destroyed and damaged three other schools in the West Bank funded by international assistance, shortly before children were due to return to school after the summer break.
According to NRC, more than 60 schools in the West Bank are currently at risk of demolition and children in schools across the West Bank face attacks on their right to education.
The first half of 2017 saw 93 “education-related incidents” affecting 13,906 Palestinian students, including Israeli soldiers firing tear gas canisters and sound bombs at students on their way to or from school, as well as the arrest of children from their classrooms and harassment at checkpoints.
NRC’s O’Rourke said: “The destruction of educational structures is not just a violation of international law, it also demonstrates contempt towards the international community’s provision of aid to the occupied Palestinian population, to ensure safe places for children to learn.”