Israel seizes mobile classrooms in Palestinian village the day before school

Days after residents in an isolated Bethlehem-area village received stop-work orders for mobile homes being set up as a school — structures for which locals insisted they had obtained the necessary permits — Israeli forces reportedly raided the village Tuesday and seized the classrooms.

The raid into Jubbet al-Dib came a day before the first day of the school year, leaving some 64 students from the 1st to 4th grade without school to attend on Wednesday, Palestinian Authority-owned Wafa news agency reported.

Wafa quoted local activist Hasan Breijieh as saying that Israeli forces hauled the mobile classrooms on trucks and took them away under the pretext they were established without Israeli permission.

Locals reportedly attempted to block the confiscation of the classrooms, which Breijieh reiterated were licensed. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets at the residents to disperse them, without causing any injury, according to Wafa.

Sami Marwa, director of the education department in Bethlehem, told the news agency that the school was set up to serve several small communities in the area, and had enrolled 64 students.

He said teachers and staff had been preparing for the first day of school since Sunday. The school consisted of eight mobile homes, Brejiyeh told Ma’an when the stop-work orders were delivered, when Israeli forces also confiscated vehicles donated by an Italian NGO.

After the classrooms were hauled away, the Palestinian Ministry of Education started seeking an alternative school for the children to attend, Wafa said.

A spokesperson for the Israeli civil administration contested last Thursday that the structures had not received the necessary permits, and that the construction was “illegal.” A spokesperson was contacted again Wednesday for comment on Tuesday’s raid.

Palestinians living in Area C — the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control — must apply for construction permits with the Israeli civil administration for any kind of development on their lands. However, oftentimes these requests are denied and the application process can be lengthy and expensive.

Israeli forces confiscated the solar panels in Jubbet al-Dhib last month that were installed last year with funding from the Dutch government, under the pretext that they were built without permits.

Rights groups have highlighted that Israel’s permit system in Area C has served to limit Palestinian construction in Israeli-controlled areas of the Palestinian territory, where the land is reoriented for the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements or for other purposes serving the Israeli government or settlers.

Some 150 Palestinians reside in Jubbet al-Dhib, which is neighbored by the illegal Noqedim settlement — home to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman — as well as the illegal El David settlement, in addition a number of Israeli outposts, that, despite being illegal even under Israeli domestic law, are connected to the power grid and other infrastructure.