EU condemns Israeli dismantling of Palestinian schools

The European Union on Thursday condemned Israeli measures against buildings designated for Palestinian educational facilities in the West Bank days before classes restart following the summer holidays.

On Monday, Israel dismantled a structure in a Bedouin Arab community near Jerusalem. The structure, built of wood and metal paneling in the village of Jabal al-Baba adjacent to al-Azariya, was slated to open next month as a kindergarten for 25 children.

According to a statement from Israeli rights group B’Tselem, the kindergarten was to be the primary childcare facility for some two dozen Palestinian families from the Bedouin encampment at the site who otherwise have no access to either the Israeli or Palestinian education systems.

Overnight Tuesday a small primary school was demolished in the southern West Bank and solar panels used to power another school were also removed.

The EU, in a statement, expressed “strong concern about the recent confiscations of Palestinian school structures undertaken by Israel in Bedouin communities in the occupied West Bank.”

“Every child has the right to safe access to education and states have an obligation to protect, respect and fulfill this right, by ensuring that schools are inviolable safe spaces for children,” the statement added.

Children are due to return to school on Wednesday after the summer holidays.

COGAT, the Israeli civil administration which oversees construction in the West Bank, said the structures did not have proper permits.

Many such projects are built by European NGOs with funding from the European Union, drawing Israeli criticism for financing illegally built structures.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said the confiscations were “a deliberate policy of the Israeli authorities to pressure Palestinian communities to leave, in order to confiscate their land and build additional settlements.”

A number of traditionally nomadic Bedouin communities are based in the hills east of Jerusalem. Activists have long criticized Israel for neglecting their development needs and seeking to move them from sprawling encampments to urban residential areas. Palestinians fear this is to enable the expansion of settlements in the area, which could further isolate the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem from other Palestinian population centers.

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