Belgium has demanded the Israeli authorities provide “explanations as well as compensation” for the demolition of new school facilities for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank which were donated by the EU.
The six newly installed steel terrapin cabins were erected in the village of Jubbet Al Dhib so that local children did not have to walk an hour to get to school.
They were destroyed and equipment such as chairs and tables confiscated by the Israeli authorities on Tuesday - the day before the new school year started - on the grounds that the buildings did not have proper planning permission.
The area was sealed off, declared a military zone, and security forces used stun grenades to keep residents away, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said in a statement.
Israeli media said that locals had thrown stones at soldiers during the demolition.
The village’s 80 children have had to attend classes in cramped tarpaulin tents or under the hot sun on the first day of school instead.
In a statement on Thursday, Belgium’s deputy prime minister Didier Reynders and minister of development cooperation Alexander De Croo jointly condemned the demolition of the partly-Belgian funded structures.
“These new demolitions and seizures of essential infrastructure are unacceptable: Belgium’s projects aim to meet humanitarian needs and are carried out in strict respect of international humanitarian law,” they wrote.
“By undermining such humanitarian projects, Israel contravenes its international obligations as an occupying power.”
The Belgian officials noted that the Jubbet Al Dhib demolition comes on top of the destruction of school facilities in three other West Bank villages in the last two weeks, all donated by international bodies and NGOs, and all destroyed on the same planning permission grounds.
Critics of Israeli policy in the occupied West Bank have long pointed out that building permits are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.
The latest spate of school demolitions and confiscations in the West Bank forms part of a wider attack on education in Palestine, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) says; a total of 55 schools are currently threatened with demolition and “stop-work” orders.
“Just when they were due to return to the classroom, Palestinian children are discovering that their schools are being destroyed,” said NRC’S Palestine direcotr Hanibal Abiy Worku.
“What threat do these schools pose to the Israeli authorities? What are they planning to achieve by denying thousands of children their fundamental right to education?”
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the body which implements Israeli policy in Palestinian areas, did not immediately respond to The Independent’s request for comment.
Last month, the Netherlands also lodged a complaint with the Israeli government after dozens of Dutch solar panels donated to the same village were confiscated.
More than 300 structures in the occupied West Bank demolished by the Israeli authorities in 2016 were at least in part funded by the EU or international NGOs, an Israeli military official said earlier this year.
Last year also saw the highest number of Israeli demolitions of Palestinian structures since rights groups began record-keeping.
“Belgium is not the only international donor affected by this kind of destruction. It will continue to work together with its partners, as in the past, to ask the Israeli authorities to end these demolitions,” the Belgian officials said.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies