Israel seizes mobile classrooms in Palestinian village on eve of new school year

Trailers were to serve first- through fourth-graders; incident marks fourth such raid on West Bank villages in last two weeks

The start of the school year in a West Bank village was pushed back to Sunday after the Israeli Civil Administration on Tuesday confiscated and destroyed trailers that were supposed to serve as classrooms, along with other educational equipment.

Authorities have confiscated and destroyed trailers used as classrooms in three other Palestinian communities in the last two weeks.

Classes for some 80 first- through fourth-graders from the villages Jubbet Adh-Dhib and Zatra were ultimately held in improvised tents on Wednesday morning.

A resident of Jubbet Adh-Dhib told Haaretz, “We were surprised when the students from Zatra came in the morning and started to study on the concrete floor.” A tent was placed at the site, but was not large enough for the 80 students, she said.

The Civil Administration, which is part of the Defense Ministry, has also confiscated trailers and equipment in two Bedouin communities east of Jerusalem, and issued a demolition order for a galvanized tin hut serving as a school in the village of Rifa’iyeh, south of Hebron.

The Civil Administration said the mobile homes – which had been donated by a European humanitarian organization – had been erected without the necessary permits

On Tuesday night, on the eve of the opening of the school year in the West Bank and Gaza, Civil Administration inspectors accompanied by military troops raided Jubbet Adh-Dhib, where they dismantled and confiscated six trailers donated by an aid organization as classrooms for elementary school students.

As the trailers were being dismantled and removed, Palestinians threw stones at Israeli security forces, who fired in the air.

The four communities in which the Civil Administration confiscated and demolished classrooms are located in Area C, where Israel does not allow Palestinians to build and hook up to water and electricity systems, despite the population’s needs and natural growth.

International aid organizations say there are some 50 Israeli demolition orders pending against Palestinian schools in the West Bank.

Last week, the Civil Administration confiscated the car and truck of a contractor who came to prepare an electrical system for the school in Jubbet Adh-Dhib.

The administration also confiscated the contractor’s two generators, drills and cutting machines, and detained two of his workers for two hours. The two cars are estimated to be worth $40,000 and the seized equipment $4,000.

Dutch protest

In early July the Civil Administration confiscated 96 solar panels from the same village, which was built in 1929. Some of these panels had been funded by the Dutch government and were installed by the joint Israeli-Palestinian organization Comet-ME.

The Netherlands protested to Israel over the confiscation of the panels, which were worth about 40,000 euros ($47,200). Following the incident, the Dutch foreign minister stated his country would continue to finance humanitarian projects in the West Bank, whether or not Israel allowed them.

Until the mobile classrooms had been set up in the village, the children used to study in neighboring villages, about an hour’s walk away.

At 5 A.M. on Sunday this week, Border Police and police officers raided the village of Jabel al-Baba and confiscated a trailer intended to serve as a kindergarten for 25 children ages 4 to 6. They also confiscated 10 tables, 30 children’s chairs, two closets and a blackboard, worth some 10,000 shekels.

According to OCHA, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, since the beginning of the year Israel has destroyed 192 Palestinian structures that were set up without permits in Area C. In 2016, Israel destroyed 875 Palestinian structures.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said all the structures that had been demolished were illegal and the demolitions had been carried out lawfully. In Jubbet Adh-Dhib the structures had been set up last weekend in blatant violation of the orders to cease the construction. The tools used for the construction had also been seized, a COGAT official said.

He said the Civil Administration maintained contact throughout the year with the international organizations operating in the region, in order to cooperate with them to advance legal projects in Area C, such as renovating and expanding a school in Khirbat Atwani and a school in Jab’a.