Hebron Schoolchildren Escorted by Israeli Military to Avoid Settlers’ Violence

HEBRON, January 6, 2015 (WAFA) – Palestinian children, aged between 6 and 17 years, have to walk to their schools accompanied by an Israeli military escort because they need protection from the Israeli settlers who live adjacent to the road to school.

This route is the main road linking their villages and At-Tuwani and it is dangerous for the children to go to school unaccompanied, because they frequently suffer from the attacks and harassment of Israeli settlers.

The children, who instead of enjoying a safe and comfortable ride to and from their school of At-Tuwani, usually walk, accompanied by an Israeli military escort, through the shortest route (about 20 minutes) that passes between the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’on and the outpost of Havat Ma’on.

According to a press report published by Operation Dove, during the last school-week, the Israeli military escort failed three times in accompanying the schoolchildren from the South Hebron hills villages of Tuba and Maghayir al-Abeed.

It reported that on January 4, the schoolchildren waited for the escort until 7:53am, but the soldiers failed to show up.

Having to be at school at 8pm sharp to attend an exam, the children chose to take the longer route, in which they were attacked several times in the past by Israeli settlers. To ensure their safety, international volunteers accompanied them instead of the military escort.

On December 31, operation Dove said that the children arrived at the designated escort meeting place at 10.30am to go back home, but the Israeli military escort wasn’t there.

The children waited in the cold weather for the army until 11.45am and then were forced to go through the very dangerous and shortest route between Ma’on settlement and Havat Ma’on outpost without any escort.

The third incident happened on December 28. According to the same report, the schoolchildren arrived at the designated escort meeting place at 11.08am, but the army wasn’t there.

The young children waited for around two hours and after that took a longer path, but not less dangerous, accompanied by International volunteers to provide them with protection.

Operation Dove’s data showed that from 24 August 2014 to 4 January 2015, a total of 170 attacks against the children took place, of which six times the children were not escorted on their trip from and to school.

The report revealed that even when the escort is present, on 136 of 170 recorded cases the Israeli soldiers failed to fully complete the escort, not walking until the end of the settlement.

Meanwhile, within the same period, in 23% of the cases the escort refused to walk with the children, a duty established in the agreement between the District Coordination Offices (DCO) and At-Tuwani major.

On 49.4% of the mornings, the children were late to school for more than five minutes due to the escort’s delay. The children lost nine hours in total, because of late or missing military escorts.

Operation Dove said, on 54.1% of their school days, the children had to wait more than five minutes after school for the military escort. In the afternoons, the children waited for a total of 22 hours.