Israeli settlers threaten Palestinian school children, attack CPTers in South Hebron Hills
On 17 March 2008, an Israeli settler yelled and threatened to throw a rock at Palestinian children on the way to elementary school in the village of At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills. Two days later, masked settlers attacked CPTers Cassandra Dixon and Eileen Hanson who were monitoring the school patrol from a new location.
About twenty children from the villages of Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed walk to school in At-Tuwani each day. The Israeli military, under orders from the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) Committee for the Rights of the Child, have accompanied the children past the Hill 833 settlement outpost since 2004 because of settler attacks on the children.
On the morning of 17 March 2008, the children were unable to meet the regular military escort, because it stopped 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 presence of the settler, who was speaking with soldiers and threatening the children 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 9:00 a.m., an hour after school had started. Four children decided not to attend school that day and went home.
On the morning of 19 March, two settlers with their faces covered used slingshots to fire stones at CPTers Cassandra Dixon and Eileen Hanson and chased them as they attempted to monitor the escort. Dixon and Hanson were attempting to observe the children from a new location since soldiers were leaving them unaccompanied for half the route.
The recent problems with the escort arose after settlers installed a gate in the road. Because the jeep stops short of the gate, the children cannot see whether it is waiting for them. Often a few children go ahead, in order to check for the presence of the escort. This reconnaissance is dangerous for the children, because settlers are often in close proximity. One house in the outpost lies only fifty meters away from the road, and often a settler is working around the nearby chicken barns at this time.
In the afternoon, the escort jeep again stops short of the gate; the children go on ahead, and the escort jeep leaves the area before the children are out of sight. This negligence leaves the children unaccompanied for the last half of their walk past the settlement outpost, within reach of people who have previously attacked them.
The new gate on the road represents yet another expansion in the Hill 833 settlement outpost, called by the settlers Havat Ma'on. Despite orders issued by the Israeli government calling for the removal of this outpost, to date it has taken no action to remove it.