Children, International Observers and a Pregnant Woman Abused in 3 Days of Harassment in South Hebron

21 March 2008

from the Christian Peacemaker Teams
March 17, 2008

An Israeli settler yelled threatening remarks, and wielded a rock at young Palestinian children on the way to school in the village of At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills. About twenty children from the villages of Tuba and Magayer Al Abeed walk to the elementary school in At-Tuwani each day. They are accompanied by an Israeli military escort past the illegal settlement outpost of Havat Maon (Hill 833). The Children’s Committee of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, ordered the escort in 2004 after a series of settler attacks on the children. On the morning of 17 March, 2008, the children were unable to meet the regular military escort. The escort jeep stopped well short of the appointed meeting place, and despite repeated calls to the military by international volunteers and concerned Israelis, the escort jeep never came forward to meet the children. The children could not go toward the escort jeep because of the threatening presence of the settler. The settler was near the military escort and was speaking with the soldiers. He also yelled at the children, and threatened them with a rock. Most of the children eventually decided to take the long path to school, walking unescorted through the hills and arriving in At-Tuwani about 9:00am, an hour after school had started. Four of the children returned home and did not attend school because of the problems with the escort.
The military escort has failed in recent week to accompany the children for approximately one half of the escort route. Settlers recently installed a gate on the road, and the escort jeep has routinely refused to pass through the gate. It is unclear whether the gate is actually locked. The escort jeep now stops well short of the gate.
In the morning, this means that the children cannot see whether the jeep is waiting for them. Often a few children go ahead, in order to check for the presence of the escort. This is an extremely dangerous situation for the children, as settlers are often in close proximity. One house in the illegal outpost lies only 50 meters away from the road, and often a settler is working in and around the nearby chicken barns at this time.
In the afternoon, the situation is even more distressing. The escort jeep stops well short of the gate in the road, the children go on ahead, and the escort jeep leaves the area before the children are out of sight. This leaves the children unaccompanied for the last half of their walk past the settlement outpost, well within reach of the very people who have previously attacked them.
The most recent attack on the children was on April 7th, 2007, when settlers stole their backpacks, and three of the children were injured fleeing the attack. The children in the school escort range in age from six to twelve years of age.

The new gate on the road represents yet another expansion in the illegal settlement outpost of Havat Maon (Hill 833). Despite orders issued by the Israeli government calling for the removal of this illegal settlement outpost, to date no action has been taken toward its removal.

March 19, 2008

On the morning of 19 March, two international observers working with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) were attacked and chased by two settlers while they attempted to monitor the escort of the children from Tuba to At-Tuwani. The settlers, whose faces were covered, used a slingshot to fire stones at the internationals.
CPTers Cassandra Dixon and Eileen Hanson were monitoring the escort of children from Tuba To At-Tuwani from a new location due to problems with the escort in recent weeks. The Israeli military escort has failed to accompany the children the entire route as ordered, and settlers have threatened the children while they are coming and going from school.

March 20, 2008

This morning three Israeli Settlers arrived just outside the village of At-Tuwani in a pickup truck and chased Palestinian shepherds and their flocks. One of the settlers, the security agent for the settlement of Ma’on, stole a bag of wild herbs. He grabbed the bag and ripped it from the hands of a Palestinian woman who is eight months pregnant. Most of the other Palestinian shepherds with her were young boys, no older than thirteen years of age. The settler security agent also knocked to the ground an international volunteer with Christian Peacemaker Teams, Jessica Frederick, as she tried to prevent him from chasing away sheep. The Israeli army and police arrived on the scene but the stolen property was not returned.