AT-TUWANI: Settler violence against Palestinian schoolchildren under Israeli military escort; a report by Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove
"The beginning was worse, but after today it seems harder than the beginning. The settlers are still beating our children." Mother of South Hebron Hills student after settlers stoned children on 27 July 2008 and inflicted head wound requiring hospitalization on CPTer accompanying them.
A new report by Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove about the Israeli military escort of Palestinian children to school in At-Tuwani, during the 2007-2008 school year, details a catalogue of violent settler attacks on the children and a complacent attitude regarding these attacks by the Israeli army.
The military escort began in the fall of 2004, following attacks by settlers on the schoolchildren and internationals accompanying them on the public road that passes between Ma’on settlement and Hill 833 (Havot Ma'on) settler outpost. In November 2004, Israeli Knesset Committee for Children’s Rights affirmed the initial verbal agreement for military accompaniment of the children between the At-Tuwani mayor and the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO), the section of the army that coordinates civilian affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The report "A Dangerous Journey: Settler violence against Palestinian schoolchildren under Israeli military escort" describes the daily journey of the children from the villages of Tuba and Maghaer al-Abeed to and from their school in At-Tuwani under Israeli military escort. It highlights how settler threats and violence during the journey undermine the children’s safety and documents the Israeli military’s violations of its legal obligations to ensure the children’s safe passage and right to education.
Comparison of the data collected during the 2007-08 school year and the 2006-07 school year shows a constant, unacceptable level of settler violence against the schoolchildren. Data also show that in the 2007-2008 school year the tardiness of the army caused the children to miss 25.32 hours of classes, compared to 10.47 hours in the previous school year.
The report concludes, "Nearly four years after the Israeli military’s agreement to provide an escort, and the affirmation of this agreement by the Knesset Committee for Children’s Rights, the situation of the children ... has worsened. The children continue to be harassed and attacked by Israeli settlers ... The Israeli military, which was given a mandate to ensure the safety of the children, has consistently failed to do so."
During the first two months of the 2008-2009 school year the children made sixty-eight journeys to and from school. On fourteen of these sixty-eight occasions (21 percent of journeys) the children had to wait, either before or after school, for over half-an-hour for the Israeli military escort to arrive. On four of these occasions the children had to wait for over an hour, and one morning had to wait for 1 hour and 40 minutes for the escort to arrive.
On Tuesday 14 October, 2008, the children were attacked by two Israeli settlers on their way home from At-Tuwani. The two settlers waited for the children near the end of the settlement, threw stones at them and chased them towards Tuba. The attack took place after the Israeli military had left the children to walk alone on part of their route home.
The report is available at: http://cpt.org/files/Palestine-School-Accompaniment-Report-2006-2008-Dangerous-Journey.pdf and contains maps of the region and of the routes the children take to school. It is illustrated with photos of the children, settlers, and significant locations the children pass on their journey to school.