Israeli occupation forces demolished on Wednesday, December 5, an elementary school in al-Simiya area, north of the southern West Bank town of al-Sumo’, and south of the city of Hebron, a local activist told the Wafa Palestinian news agency. Mohannad al-Masalma, PR coordinator for the West Bank area south of Hebron, said that an Israeli bulldozer demolished the “al-Tahadi 13” (Challenge 13) school with no prior notice and, before its destruction began, the immediate vicinity was declared a closed military area.
The demolished school is one of those constructed of mobile classrooms which the Palestinian Education Ministry has recently embarked upon, dubbing them “al-Tahadi” (Challenge) Schools, to provide education for children in vulnerable communities across Area C of the West Bank. It was to include seven mobile classrooms and serve 50 pupils, and was scheduled to open two days after it was demolished. Residents told Ma’an news agency that Israeli forces demolished the school and confiscated a power generator, drinking-water tanks and other equipment.
Area C, which accounts for 60% of the West Bank, is under full Israeli control and, like East Jerusalem, has witnessed accelerated settlement construction in violation of international law. Israel’s apartheid wall has further fragmented Palestinian communities and restricted Palestinian movement in this area, the annexation of which has repeatedly been called for by members of Israel’s ruling government and coalition.
Head of the Directorate of Education in Hebron, Khalid Abu Sharar, said that the ministry decided to build this school to decrease the pressure that Palestinian children from the village of al-Simiya are regularly subjected to when they go to school in the nearby town of al-Sumo’ and return home. Abu Sharar related how the village’s school children are repeatedly harassed by Israeli soldiers and settlers on their way to and from their studies in al-Sumo’, in addition to their having to cross a major highway, something which endangers their lives daily.
The Palestinian Ministry of Education condemned the demolition and confiscation of the school’s property, citing how this action epitomizes “planned terrorism” against educational institutions fomented by the Israeli state. The ministry called upon all international human rights institutions and media to hold Israel’s authorities accountable for their violations of the right to education of Palestinian children.