IDF Closes Palestinian School to Make Way for West Bank Training Zone

Civil Administration issues demolition order against the school, though residents have no access to any other.

Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar
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Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar

A Palestinian elementary school was shut down last week after Israel's Civil Administration confiscated the vehicle used to transport teachers to it.

Teachers initially tried coming to the school, located in the Jinba cave village in the southern Hebron hills, by donkey, but this proved disruptive since they were often late.

On Sunday, the administration also confiscated the car of a veterinarian employed by the Palestinian Authority when he came to the village to vaccinate sheep. The vehicles were seized as part of a stepped-up enforcement campaign in Area C, the part of the West Bank under full Israeli control.

The Civil Administration also issued a demolition order against the school, though residents have no access to any other school: The nearest is in Yatta, 20 kilometers away.

In addition, it ordered an access road, tents, mud huts, sheepfolds and solar energy facilities razed, reinstating demolition orders frozen by agreement with the state prosecution in 2007.

In 1999, the area was declared a live-fire exercise zone by the Israel Defense Forces, meaning people aren't allowed to live there. The residents were evicted but petitioned the High Court of Justice, which issued an interim injunction allowing them to return until it issues a final ruling. Ever since, the case has been stuck in court, with the state requesting and receiving continual postponements of the deadline for filing its response. Last month, the state promised to file its response within 30 days.

The residents' attorney, Shlomo Lecker, told Haaretz that the wave of confiscations and demolition orders is a serious violation of the High Court's injunction. "It's the state that asked to delay hearing the petition for the last 12 years, and you can't expect hundreds of residents of the cave village to have their lives put on hold for such a long time - that the access road to the site would be blocked, and they would be denied the possibility of giving their children compulsory education," he said.

Dror Etkes, who has monitored West Bank settlement activity for years, told Haaretz that three settlement outposts had recently expanded into the live-fire zone: Avigail, Mitzpeh Yair and Havat Ma'on. "But as far as I know, there are no restrictions on their movement in the area, and none of their vehicles have been confiscated," he said. "I also don't know of any active army exercise area within this live-fire zone. In most of it, there never were any exercises."

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said the court would hear the petition against the army's declaration of the live-fire zone in a few days, and the state would give its response there.

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