Israeli settlers set up an outpost some 500 metres from Ein Samiya last week and began a sustained attack on the whole community for several days. The entire community of 172 people, including 78 children, were forced to flee their homes on Tuesday. Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/NRC

West Bank: Israel must stop demolition of Palestinian schools

Published 25. May 2023
Over 6,550 Palestinian students face life without an education unless Israel cancels demolition orders for 57 schools in the occupied West Bank.

Two schools in the Bedouin communities of Ein Samiya, north-east Ramallah, and Khashm al-Karm, south-east Hebron, are at risk of imminent demolition by Israeli authorities. In Ein Samiya, continuous settler attacks and the anticipated demolition of the school has forced the entire community of 172 people, including 78 children, to flee their homes on Tuesday.

“We urge Israel not to destroy schools and to cancel all demolition orders in the occupied West Bank immediately,” said Caroline Ort, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s country director for Palestine. “When a school is demolished, it not only disrupts the learning of those students, but also the future of their families who will have to relocate their homes and livelihoods to give their children education.”

“Israeli state and settler violence, property destruction and the denial of basic services has forced three Palestinian communities to flee their homes in 2023 alone. Without tangible actions to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law, more and more Palestinians will be forcibly displaced,” Ort added.

Israeli settlers set up an outpost some 500 metres from Ein Samiya last week and began a sustained attack on the whole community for several days. Since March 2022, Israeli settlers have harassed and intimidated the community, including throwing rocks at Palestinian vehicles, vandalizing and stealing agricultural equipment, setting fire to farming land, uprooting crops, running over livestock, and blocking roads.

The West Bank Protection Consortium, led by NRC, provides material and legal assistance to the Ein Samiya and Khashm al-Karm communities, including building the two schools. Prior to their construction, children had to travel several kilometres in mountainous terrain near settlements to attend classes.

The schools have long been at risk of demolition because they have no building permit, virtually impossible to obtain under Israel’s discriminatory and unlawful planning regime. The Israeli authorities already demolished a Consortium-funded school in the Jubbet Adh-Dhib community, south-east Bethlehem, on 7 May.

NRC visited the community following the demolition. Children said they have lost the school and the contents of their classrooms. They then moved to makeshift tents that were also confiscated by Israeli authorities.

A fourth grader recalled the moment her school was torn down. “I saw them [Israeli military] destroy my school from my home,” she said. “I came the following day to see it all empty. My school was gone. This is not right because it stops us from learning.”

A teacher at the school added, “The mental toll on the children and teachers is even more damaging. But despite this and the heavy price we are paying, we want to give children an opportunity to learn, because this is the right thing to do.”

Attacks on education or destruction of schools must not be used as a tool to destroy the future of young Palestinians. NRC, alongside its partners, will continue to provide support to those affected and urge Israel to abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law.