Israel has threatened to demolish a Bedouin encampment in the West Bank that contains a school, claiming that the community was built without appropriate permits and was hindering the development of new Israeli settlements.
The Khan Al-Ahmar elementary school was built in 2009 with the help of local and international humanitarian groups. The clay-and-tires structure employed 11 teachers, and instructed students belonging to some five neighboring Jahalin Bedouin tribes. Israeli authorities have issued a demolition order, claiming that the encampment containing the school was built illegally.
Demolishing the school would force the children to trek across the desert to Jericho for class, the closest place where education facilities are located. The Israeli military claimed that they will not destroy the school or the encampment until an alternate learning institution for the students is located.
According to UN reports, Tel Aviv has ordered the demolition of around 3,000 structures, including homes, cisterns, solar-power generators and 18 schools, including the Khan al-Ahmar Mixed Elementary School. Only 360 such demolitions have been carried out so far.
Israeli authorities believe that moving the indigenous population to planned communities will lift them out of poverty. Bedouin communities argue that their culture and its centuries-old traditions are being jeopardized by Jewish expansion.
The children of the Jahalin tribe previously attended school in Jericho, about 20 kilometers away, but school bus service was often unreliable. Locals now say that they may have no other choice: “We’ll go to school until it’s demolished,” the Washington Post cited 10-year-old Islam Hussein as saying,
Khan al-Ahmar is one of 20 Bedouin communities that are scheduled for relocation. Bedouin families have lived there since 1951, when refugees fled the Negev region during Israel’s war for independence. The West Bank is currently home to 300,000 Israeli settlers,
In September 2011, the Israeli government approved the ‘Prawer Plan,’ which called for the mass expulsion of the Arab Bedouin community in the Naqab desert. At the beginning of 2012, Tel Aviv announced a plan to establish ten new settlements along the disputed Green Line.
More than 70,000 Bedouins in 35 villages live in territory clamed by Israel. The settlements are considered to be ‘unrecognized’ by the Israelis, and the inhabitants are often referred to as ‘trespassers on state land.’
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