- 07 Dec 23
President Michael D. Higgins has strongly denounced the destruction of a Palestinian school in Khirbet Zanuta, a small village in the Israeli-occupied West bank, describing the actions of settlers as a "violation of International Humanitarian Law."
President Michael D. Higgins has released a statement condemning Israeli settler violence in occupied Gaza, after a school and multiple houses in Khirbet Zanuta — a small Palestinian village south of Hebron — were destroyed by an Israeli bulldozer.
“The destruction of a school, part-funded by Irish Aid, in the village of Khirbet Zanuta in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, along with the forced abandonment of the village as a whole in recent weeks following settler violence and harassment, is further evidence of the appalling impact which the increase in that violence of recent weeks is having on the lives of children," the President's statement began.
The West bank village had been empty, after its population of about 200 Palestinians fled around a month ago, following sustained intimidation and violent threats from armed and aggressive Israeli settler extremists, who live in nearby outposts that are recognised as illegal under both Israeli and international law. With the backing of the Israeli government, settlers have built communities in the occupied territory, increasingly encroaching upon land intended to make up an independent Palestinian state.
Roughly three million Palestinians live in the territory, which has been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967, alongside roughly half a million Jewish settlers.
Invoking a rarely used article of the UN Charter, article 99, Secretary-General Ántonio Guterres yesterday called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in order to avoid "severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system" in Gaza, as the IDF continue to bombard the area.
"As Janez Lenarčič, the European Commissioner for Crisis Management, has stated, such destruction of a school is intolerable and a violation of International Humanitarian Law," Higgins continued. "The Secretary-General’s action must be treated with the utmost seriousness and all steps possible taken to avert further catastrophe and to provide a meaningful, lasting peace.
The Palestinian school, built using Irish and EU aid funds, has been levelled by a bulldozer, according to EU Crisis Management commissioner Janez Lenarčič, who is in charge of humanitarian aid; the walls of the building crushed and reduced to rubble.
Israeli settlers demolished a school in Zamuta, a village in the Occupied #Palestinian Territory.
The school was built by EU funds - because every child, everywhere has a right to education.
— Janez Lenarčič (@JanezLenarcic) December 6, 2023
“The school was built by EU funds – because every child, everywhere has a right to education,” Lenarčič wrote on social media. This destruction is intolerable and a violation of international humanitarian law," he added.
"It is incumbent on all of us who believe in the basics of International Humanitarian Law to seek to ensure that children in particular are shielded from violence and abuse and to provide them with special protection at times of conflict," the President's statement continued.
"Responding to the horrific number of children who have been killed since 7th October must inform all of our actions. We must support our international institutions and the Secretary-General of the United Nations in their plea that an end be brought to this death and destruction."