The Children's March to Tuba was amazing. Though the army prevented any internationals from walking with the children and their parents, as usual they certainly didn't need us. Palestinians marched up a road that they haven't been able to use for 11 years.
This was one of the most moving sights I've ever seen.
The march wasn't without is problems - the military declared the whole south Hebron hills a closed military zone (we're advised that was illegal) and attacked two adults. Also, police arrested a member of Operation Dove. She's been released - stay tuned for details.
Here's the press release we sent out:
On 2 August, more than one hundred children and their parents from the South Hebron Hills marched from the village of At-Tuwani to the village of Tuba, calling for an end to settler violence and settlement expansion in the area. The march was a part of the annual South Hebron Hills summer camp for children and a response to recent settler attacks on children walking to the summer camp in At-Tuwani.
The children and their parents, accompanied by a few Israelis and internationals, took the most direct path to the village of Tuba. For the past eleven years, school children escorted by the Israeli military have been the only Palestinians able to use this road. Palestinian parents organized the march to call attention to the violence faced by school children, the failure of the Israeli army to protect them and the effects of Israeli settlement expansion.
The march initially attempted to take the path that children use when unaccompanied by the Israeli military, around the settlement outpost Havat Ma’on (Hill 833)—which the Israeli government ordered dismantled in 2006. The Israeli military then declared the whole area a closed military zone and restrained the march with force, targeting leaders. Seeing a soldiers attack and try to arrest a Palestinian man, a CPTer tried to intervene. Soldiers knocked them both down and started choking the CPTer. Other participants in the demonstration then intervened nonviolently and stopped the attack. An Israeli and Kristin Anderson—who has worked both with CPT and Operation Dove (an Italian peace group that, with CPT, forms the At-Tuwani team)—were arrested.
Palestinian organizers negotiated with the soldiers, and the Israeli military agreed to accompany the children and parents on the short path, using the road between Ma’on settlement and Havat Ma’on (Hill 833).
A large group of settlers came out of Ma’on and harassed the marchers. A smaller group of settlers followed directly behind the marchers, but Israeli military and police prevented them from attacking the group. One village elder accompanying the children walked this road for the first time in years. Surprised by the settlement expansion, she shared with a soldier about how she plowed this land years ago.
Participating in the march were children from the villages of Tuba and Maghaer Al-Abeed, whom settlers have regularly attacked as they walked to primary school in At-Tuwani. The children rely on an Israeli military escort to accompany them to school and prevent Israeli settlers from attacking them, but the Israeli military has recently declined to carry out the escort for summer camp. The most recent settler attack took place on 27 July, when the Israeli military refused to escort the children. Settlers flung rocks at the children with slingshots and physically assaulted CPTer Joel Gulledge, inflicting a head wound requiring stitches.
For a photo of the march, see http://cpt.org/gallery/album257.