Israeli authorities on Sunday demolished a building that housed a European Union-funded Palestinian school near Bethlehem, prompting protests by the Palestinian Authority and European Union.
Israeli Civil Administration engineers razed the structure, which Palestinians constructed in 2017 without a permit in the Herodium national park in the West Bank.
The demolition followed a District Court ruling from March, in which the structure was defined as a safety hazard at risk of imminent collapse.
Regavim, a nonprofit organization that says it is “dedicated to the protection of Israel’s national lands and resources,” and has conducted a five-year legal fight to bring about the demolition of the building, said in a statement that it was ”one of 100 illegal schools throughout Area C of the West Bank that are used cynically to cement the Palestinian hold on open areas.”
Area C makes up some 60 percent of the West Bank and is fully under Israeli security and administrative control. Israel rarely approves Palestinian construction in Area C, with the overwhelming majority of requests being denied. This has resulted in rampant illegal building, which is in turn often demolished by Israel.
On social networks, the Office of the EU Representative in the West Bank and Gaza Strip protested the demolition near the village of Jubbet Ad Dhib, which the EU said it had funded.
“Shocked by the news about the demolition of the EU-funded Jab Zeeb school by the Israeli authorities. Over 60 Palestinian children will be affected by this,” an EU spokesperson wrote in a statement posted on Facebook.
“Demolition is illegal under international law, and children’s right to education must be respected. Israel must stop all demolition and evacuation operations that will only further the suffering of the Palestinian population and escalate an already tense environment,” the statement read.
The Palestinian Education Ministry called the demolition “a heinous crime,” adding: “These practices fall within the framework of the occupying regime’s ongoing crimes against the Palestinian educational sector, targeting students, teachers and educational institutions in complete disregard of international conventions and principles.”
Shlomo Ne’eman, head of the Yesha Council umbrella organization representing local authorities in West Bank settlements, said in a statement: “We welcome the enforcement but regret the absurd reality in which the court, through a petition of civil society organizations, needs to instruct the state and its enforcement mechanisms to fulfill their duties. This is a tiny part of our unwavering struggle for our national lands. Much work remains to be done.”