Every day, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank worsens. The Western media barely registers this reality.
The Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Hebron issued a press release on Monday accusing Israeli soldiers of not living up to their responsibility towards Palestinian civilians in the occupied south Hebron hills in the West Bank.
Israeli soldiers in charge of escorting schoolchildren from At Tuwani to their homes in the villages of Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed refused to escort the children past two adult settlers present in the area on 23 March 2009. As the soldiers and children arrived close to the chicken barns which mark the end of the area where settlers frequently attack, they saw settlers approaching the barns. The children asked the soldiers to complete the escort. Internationals watching from a nearby ridge also called the army twice to raise the problem, specifically demanding that the escort complete the accompaniment past the chicken barns as required by the protocol.
The soldiers did not walk further with the children. Instead, they directed the children to continue alone, and they left the scene before the children had passed the hill where the settlers were walking. As one child reported, “The soldiers saw the settlers and they said to us, ‘Okay, run fast. Go.’ These soldiers are new. I don’t want these soldiers. I want good soldiers.” Walking by themselves, the children took a detour around the hill to avoid the settlers and reach home safely.
The Israeli army began to escort the Palestinian children to and from school in September 2004, following a series of Israeli settler attacks upon the children and their international accompaniers. In November 2004, the Israeli Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child endorsed this obligation.
Despite repeated settler attacks on the Palestinian elementary schoolchildren, and despite Palestinian, Israeli and international advocacy efforts, the Israeli military continues to fail to escort the hildren safely past the settlement.
During the present school year settlers have twice attacked the children on their way home, throwing stones, chasing them and yelling death threats. In the 2007-08 academic year, settlers attacked the children a total of fourteen times, as documented in the report “A Dangerous Journey: Settler violence against Palestinian schoolchildren under Israeli military escort”.