PHOTOS + PRESS RELEASE | South Hebron Hills Popular Committee protest settler violence and Israeli army negligence

OPERATION DOVE | October 25, 2013

PRESS RELEASE

South Hebron Hills Popular Committee protest against settler violence and Israeli army negligence in protecting Palestinian schoolchildren

At Tuwani – On October 23, the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee organized a nonviolent action for the right to education of Palestinian children from the South Hebron Hills area in the southern West Bank. The children of the area, together with their families and teachers protested against settler violence and Israeli army negligence in performing its duty to protect Palestinian children, in solidarity with the children from the villages of  Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed.

At 11 am all students from the At-Tuwani school (ages 6-17 years), coming from seven villages throughout the South Hebron Hills, marched with their relatives, the Freedom Theatre’s Freedom Bus troupe and other Palestinian and international artists and activists. They moved toward the area where children from the Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed villages usually wait for the Israeli army escort to accompany them back to their homes, near Ma’on settlement and Havat Ma’on outpost (Hill 833). “We have the right to study without obstructions”, declared a poster held by several children.

The Freedom Bus troupe started to perform accounts shared by local children. Israeli army and police officers, who were standing in front of the performance, subsequently intervened threatening to arrest participants and to declare the area a “close military zone”.

At 12 pm, while seven schoolchildren were escorted by four soldiers to their home village of Tuba as part of the daily escort of school children. The remaining students moved several meters away and a second show was performed by Clowns without Borders.

Local Palestinians explained to the Israeli army, Police and District Coordination Office (DCO) officers the reasons for the demonstration. “The action’s aim was to demand that the Israeli army and police fulfill their duty to escort the children from Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed on their way to and from school and to ensure the children’s rights to education and protection from all kind of abuse or violence” stated a member of the Popular Committee. “We also wish to show how local settler violence prevents access to these rights”.

The children from the villages of Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed need an Israeli military escort in order to attend school in At Tuwani, in order to protect them from attacks by settlers from Havat Ma’on along their route. This military escort was established in November 2004 by Israel’s Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child following numerous settler attacks that injured Palestinian children.

The negligence of Israeli soldiers has exposed Palestinian children to serious risk on the way to school several times since the beginning for the current school year (August 25). In the last three weeks of school, for example, the Israeli military escort has abandoned the children alone on the route three times. The schoolchildren had to walk along a longer path (which takes one hour instead of 20 minutes), accompanied by international volunteers. This path is dangerous because as runs alongside the outpost and here the children have been repeatedly attacked and chased by local Israeli settlers. In two of these three cases, settlers harassed and frightened the children, whistling and screaming at them.

Since the beginning for the current school year on August 25, the Israeli military escort has rarely fulfilled its duty. The children had to wait for escort for more than 17 hours in total in risky areas. In almost 53 percent of mornings the children were late to school, losing five hours of study, and in almost 76 percent of school days the children had to wait after classes for the military escort. Furthermore, in contravention of the protective mandate of the escort, the Israeli military failed to fully complete the path in over 90 percent of the cases, leaving the children alone in extremely dangerous places. This situation of exposure to violence and lack of security compromises the children’s fundamental right to education.

For further information on the military escort and how it was carried out in the past years, the report “The Dangerous Road to Education. Palestinian Students Suffer Under Settler Violence and Military Negligence” is available on: http://goo.gl/CXfi9

Operation Dove has maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills since 2004.

For further information:
Operation Dove, 054 99 25 773

[Note: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havat Ma’on (Hill 833), are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]

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