3 February 2021 - occupied Palestinian territory

Number of displaced Palestinian children at a four-year high as demolitions in West Bank continue

A school in Ras Al Tin in the West Bank due to be demolished by Israeli authorities. Photograph by Farah Abu Sahliya/Save the Children

More than 500 children were displaced in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2020 as over 5,200 expect their schools to be knocked down

Over 840 structures in the West Bank have been torn down or seized by Israeli authorities in 2020,[1] forcing at least 518 children and their families from their homes, Save the Children said today. This makes 2020 the worst year since 2016 for displaced Palestinian children in the West Bank.

Demolitions across the occupied territory have impacted more than 2,600 children[2] in total. Families have lost homes and livelihoods, forcing them to seek shelter with friends or extended family, and to look for other means of income and build a new life. Their situation has been exacerbated by the economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic, Save the Children said.

The demolitions have disrupted every aspect of children’s lives over the past twelve months: their homes have been razed to the ground; vital infrastructure such as water and sanitation facilities have been destroyed; and schools are under a constant threat of demolition.

Between January and December, Israeli authorities demolished hundreds of structures including farming structures, tents, and caravans, driving some 1,000 people from their homes.[3] In November alone, 73 people, including 41 children, were displaced after the largest demolition incident in four years.[4]

Despite a promise by Israeli authorities to halt the demolition of homes during the COVID-19 outbreak, destruction continued.[5] A halt on the demolition of inhabited homes in East Jerusalem announced on 1 October also did not hold, when the Israeli authorities tore down the home of a family of five in Sur Bahir in November[6].

Fareed*, who is in the fifth grade and lives in an agricultural community in the West Bank, constantly fears attacks on his home. He said, “We can’t leave our homes in the evenings, and can only stay close to home during the day. There’s a settlement nearby and on the main road the army and settlers are always coming and going. They gave demolition notices to a lot of the people living here. I felt ill and became tired [about that].”

In addition to children having lost their homes in 2020, there are currently 53 schools facing the risk of demolition across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. An estimated 5,250 children are at constant risk of seeing their school destroyed and losing out on an education, Save the Children said.

Only recently, a school with 50 children from two communities in Hebron received a demolition order with only 97 hours to appeal. The Umm Qussa school now faces the prospect of demolition if the Israeli Civil Administration goes ahead with the order.

Earlier in 2020, Israeli authorities dismantled a school under construction just south of Hebron.[7] Similar steps were taken in several other cases, including the confiscation of building material for the Ras Al Tin school in a Bedouin community east of Ramallah, allegedly for lacking building permits.

Diala* is in the sixth grade. She’s afraid that she might not be able to go to school anymore because of the military presence in her village: “Every day the Israeli army comes to the town. The other day, they came wanting to demolish our school, and I started to get scared.

“My hope is to become a teacher, but there aren’t many teachers here [without the school] so I’m afraid I won’t be able to become one.”

According to the UN, forced evictions as a result of demolitions are a key factor in the creation of a coercive environment and have a negative impact on human rights.[8]

Jason Lee, Save the Children’s Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory, said, “The ongoing demolitions are making children and their families homeless, and they are  leaving vital infrastructure in the West Bank in shambles. Children are paying the highest price. Tearing down a house, a school or other vital infrastructure, especially during a pandemic, destroys their right to an education, to have a home. It targets their future, their health, their safety and well-being.

“As an occupying power, Israel has the duty to protect the rights of children. We urge the Government of Israel to tear up all existing demolition orders for schools, homes and vital infrastructure, in line with its international obligations. Failing to do so will leave more children without a home or an education, adding to the impact the pandemic is already having on their lives.”

A representative of the Education Cluster, in which different organisations work together in the field of Education, said:  “Schools are a lifeline for children and their families, particularly in the most vulnerable areas of the West Bank. Schools should never be a target. Should the demolition of these schools occur, it would be a major setback for these children that will be very hard to overcome. It would deprive children of an education and a chance of normality in a context where it’s most needed.”        

Notes to editors

  • 53 schools are currently receiving legal aid, being represented before the Israeli courts by NGOs and the Legal Aid Task Force of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
  • Israel has imposed security and administrative control in large parts of the West Bank, including Area C. In these C Areas, Israel maintains a system of law enforcement which oversees planning and construction. In practice, it is almost impossible for Palestinians to build on 70 per cent of the territory, with a very low chance of success in the other 30 per cent of the land in Area C.

For interview requests please contact:

Ahmed Bayram: ahmed.bayram@savethechildren.org; +961 71562855

Emily Wight, Emily.wight@savethechildren.org; +44 7957 425 407

Out-of-hours (GMT) and weekend: Media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44 7831 650 409

[2] See: https://www.ochaopt.org/reports/west-bank-demolitions-and-displacement

[7] Occupied Palestinian Territory Education Cluster

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