Children protest after Israel demolishes only school in Palestinian community (VIDEO)

Children protest after Israel demolishes only school in Palestinian community (VIDEO)
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have demolished the only educational facility in a Bedouin Palestinian community in the occupied West Bank. The demolition was reportedly aimed at paving the way for an Israeli settlement project.

Israeli soldiers backed up by a helicopter knocked down the two-classroom facility located in the Abu Al-Nawwar community situated east of Jerusalem early on Sunday. The Israeli police and members of the IDF Civil Administration “stormed” the community, cordoned off the area and demolished the building that served as the community’s only school, the Jordanian Petra news agency reports, citing local community member Dawood Jahaleen.

Footage from the Ruptly video news agency shows the school children standing around the demolished building and sitting on the rubble as they wave Palestinian flags. The children, who came to the ruins of their school, were also holding placards that read: “It is my right. Do not demolish my school” as well as “We are steadfast despite all [the Israeli efforts]. We are not leaving our land.”

The facility was apparently built with support from a number of European governmental development agencies. An information board lying amid the rubble shows that Belgian, Italian, French, Irish, Swedish and Spanish as well as Luxembourgian governmental organizations contributed to the school’s construction. That, however, did not stop the Israeli authorities from demolishing the structure.

Israeli officials said that the facility was built without the necessary permits; the Israeli Defense Forces did not issue any comments on the incident. The school was the only facility providing education to the children of the Abu Al-Nawwar community, who otherwise had to cross a highway and travel to school in the town of Al-Azariya, which is 3.2 kilometers away.

It is not the first time the school has been demolished: The Israeli authorities have brought the facility down five times over the last two years. The first school building was reportedly constructed back in 2014 with the help of the French authorities. It was demolished in February 2016.

The latest demolition order was allegedly first issued by the Israeli authorities back in December and then again in early January, according to Palestinian and Turkish media. However, the local community representatives said that they appealed to the Israeli High Court of Justice and no decision had been issued yet, the Petra news agency reports.

The Abu Al-Nawwar community is a small Palestinian settlement inhabited by some 700 people, who make their living by raising cattle. The local residents live in makeshift houses and sheds while the area is surrounded by the modern Israeli settlements. The locals say that the Israeli authorities have been trying to force them off their land for years in order to pave the wave for a major settlement construction project known as ‘E1.’

“Israel aims at expelling and forcing us to leave our own land in order to expand its settlement blocks,” Jahaleen told Petra, adding that the locals do not intend to leave the area.

In the meantime, dozens of children also gathered for a rally in another Palestinian territory, the Gaza Strip – to protest against the blockade set up by Israel and Egypt back in 2007. The children called on the international community to help them have a “normal” childhood and stop the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

“Today we came here to save Gaza. I send my message to the entire world that we want our rights, the right to education, to live in safety, freedom, health, water and electricity. Even medicine is not available to us,” Maram El-Banna, a Palestinian girl who took part in the protest, told Ruptly. Another girl, Yasmin al-Attar, said that the local children “want to be free like the outside world,” adding that they are “trapped.” 

The rally came just days after the German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called on Tel Aviv to engage more actively in the process of reconciliation with the Palestinians. He also added that Israel could pay the price for “perpetual occupation and conflict” if it abandons the peace process, also warning that there is “clearly growing frustration with Israel’s actions” among European nations.