KAFR MALIK, WEST BANK (AP) – European representatives on Friday visited a small schoolhouse serving an impoverished Bedouin community in the occupied West Bank that is under threat of demolition by Israel.
The European Union (EU) funds such construction to help Palestinians maintain their presence in the 60 per cent of the West Bank under full Israeli control, known as Area C, where the military routinely demolishes homes and other structures built without hard-to-obtain permits.
EU Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, who led the delegation, said it’s “entirely unacceptable for the authorities of Israel to destroy this and demolish that”. “It violates their obligations under international law, notably international rights law, where they have to protect and promote the rights of the children under their responsibility in Palestine to enjoy education services,” he said.
The schoolhouse was built in January and currently serves 17 students.
COGAT, the military body responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank, did not respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this year, Israel’s Supreme Court approved the expulsion of some 1,000 Palestinians from Masafer Yatta, a group of Bedouin communities in Area C that are inside a live-fire training area established by the military in the 1980s.
Residents say they have been there for decades, practising traditional agriculture, while Israel said there were no permanent structures. In a separate development, the Israeli rights group B’Tselem said on Friday that Nasser Nawaj’ah, one of its Palestinian field researchers in the southern West Bank, was detained by the military last weekend, blindfolded and handcuffed, and held for 12 hours.
B’Tselem said he was told by an interrogator to stop “causing trouble” and “engaging in friction” with the military.
There was no immediate comment from the military.
Khader Kaabna, a member of the Bedouin community where the schoolhouse is set to be demolished, said 28 families comprising some 200 people have lived in the area for four decades.
He said that without the school, children would have to travel 15 kilometres away to another school – which is also threatened with demolition – to get an education, passing near outposts established by hard-line settlers.
“If this schoolhouse is demolished by the occupation, a large number of the students will stop going to school because their parents fear settler attacks,” he said.
“The settlers are seeking to uproot this community.”