AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): No safety for Palestinian children walking to school in Hebron

As the violence continues on the streets of Occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, we need to keep in mind, first and foremost, that what is occurring in the West Bank is not a reaction to an incident that happened a week ago, or two weeks ago. It is the ongoing resistance against the seizure and occupation of lands that started in 1948. The military occupation has been in place since 1967, and this short video is a reminder that the one key message that is consistently omitted from news broadcasts is the fact that Palestinians live under occupation.

The following account from the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron gives an account of the trauma and risk that students are facing, and the restrictions on their freedom of movement:

[The following release has been adapted for CPTnet. The original is available on CPT Palestine’swebsite.]

In the first ten days of October, Israeli forces fired more than 143 teargas canisters, as Palestinian children walked to and from school, as well as five stun grenades, from two military checkpoints (approximately 0.3 miles apart) in the H2 section of Hebron. On two of those ten days, Israeli forces also fired rubber-coated steel bullets into a crowd of children (one killed 13 year-old Ahmad Sharaka near Ramallah this week). Two Palestinian children in this area were hospitalised as a result of excessive teargas inhalation on their walk to school on 12.10.15.

In the past week, Israeli forces ambushed and arrested two boys aged 11 and 12 after school on 13.10.15 (see video and full account here). Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, states that child arrest is in clear violation of human rights law.

The presence of school children does nothing to deter the Israeli military from this relentless use of teargas, stun grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets, detention and arrest.  They are entirely preoccupied with a collection of those children, occupied, harassed and humiliated their entire lives, throwing stones at the heavily armed grown men occupying checkpoints and rooftops.

One Israeli Border Policeman recently told CPTers that the Israeli military supposedly “keeps the children safe”, and that “the little ones can go to the school safely.” Soon after, another Border Policeman fired a steel-coated rubber bullet into a crowd of small boys throwing stones at a soldier on an occupied rooftop who felt so little threat he was wearing no helmet. Meanwhile the day before a total of 81 teargas canisters had been fired in a similar scenario at this checkpoint (Qitoun). See video here.

Such military repression is far from abnormal in H2 Hebron. However, as physical and fatal violence has intensified in these tense first two weeks of October—during which 30 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, 1300 have been injured by live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets, with four Israelis killed and 67 injured by Palestinians.  Other forms of military repression have also increased, evident in the increased use of physical force and child arrest at school time.

In this context, the little ones, as young as the four-year-olds we walk to kindergarten– cannot walk to school safely as a Border Police man told a CPTer they could. In fact, one of our little friends we walk to kindergarten had to hold his jumper over his nose to avoid the sting of teargas as he left his home on Monday this week. Firing over 143 teargas canisters, five stun grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets and arresting minors is, however, supposedly the Israeli military’s approach to safety when it comes to Palestinian children.

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