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Kaabna Bedouin primary School under threat

20:32 Oct 1 2011 Jordan Valley, West Bank: Kaabna Bedouin village

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JORDAN VALLEY (Reuters) -- At the Kaabna Bedouin primary school in the Jordan Valley area of the West Bank, Palestinian Bedouin students prepare for a day full of classes. But their school may not be around for much longer.

Israeli authorities say the school in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is illegal as it is in ''Area C'', the 60 percent of the West Bank where Israel exercises total control.

The school is made out of temporary prefabricated buildings and caters to Arab Bedouins from the Kaabna tribe. The school's headmaster said there is already an Israeli demolition order for parts of the make-shift school.

''We are located in area C, and it is known that the Israeli army do not allow us to build in area C. The Israelis refuse to give us a school, we even have a demolition order for the bathrooms. The occupying forces annoy us, for example at the start of the year, they objected to us hanging the Palestinian flag, why were we flying the Palestinian flag in the school?'' said Muhammad Sawafta.

Defined by interim peace agreements concluded between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s, Area C is where all of Israel's West Bank settlements are located.

In the first half of 2011, more Palestinians lost their homes in Area C than in the whole of 2009 or 2010, the United Nations' OCHA says. Many of them were Bedouin. A total of 342 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished in the area so far this year.

Typically, demolitions are carried out on the grounds that the structures, some of them as simple as tents, have been put up without Israeli permission, something Palestinians say is almost impossible to obtain.

Palestinians say its part of a system of Israeli restrictions designed to curb their development while allowing the settlements to grow.

Students at this school put up with difficult conditions.

"It is hot in summer and cold in winter," said Ali Muhammad.

It isn't only the temperature of the classrooms that effects the children, in winter the rain often turns their playground into a muddy swamp.

"When we have a break we eat behind the school buildings. Then they call us and ring the bell in order for us to go back to class," said Asia Muhammad.

Around 66 pupils from the local Bedouin community go to the school, and the oldest students are 14-years old.

Many Palestinians in the area they say they are squeezed by the rules of the Israeli occupation.

Only three months ago Israel demolished a number of buildings and the UN agency OCHA, which documents such incidents, says the most recent demolitions left 37 people without homes.

Demolitions are just one of the problems that Palestinians living under Israeli control in the West Bank have to deal with.

There are also restrictions that prevent construction and free movement. The expansion of Jewish settlements has eaten up land and Palestinians, along with their property, are increasingly the target of settler violence.

[Mapping Note: geocoordinates unknown]
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