Monday, March 23, 2009

Israeli soldiers join settlers in chasing Palestinian shepherds off their lands instead of arriving on time for school escort.

On May 15th, I was accompanying a shepherd who has worked very hard and risked much to resist the confiscation of his land. My teammate and I joined him as he grazed his sheep on a piece of land that settlers have had their eye on for some time. Meanwhile, our other teammates were calling the Israeli army trying to convinced, beg, cajole, or browbeat the Israeli army into escorting the kids from Tuba home from school. Then low and behold, the jeep appeared on the hillside above us. The soldiers talked to two settlers - the same people who had been harassing shepherds all day long. Instead of taking the kids home from school, the soldiers forced the shepherd I was accompanying down into the valley. It was madding. Here's the release that we sent out.

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law. The At-Tuwani team comprises both CPTers and members of the Italian peace organization, Operation Dove.]

Israeli soldiers in charge of escorting the children from At-Tuwani to their homes in the villages of Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed arrived at the meeting point thirty minutes late on 15 March 2009, leaving the children waiting in cold, rainy weather. When At-Tuwani team members with the children called for the escort, the army dispatcher said the escort would come thirty minutes late and offered no further explanation.

At-Tuwani team members accompanying local shepherds in the area witnessed two settlers in a white pickup coming onto Palestinian land and chasing away shepherds at about 12.50 p.m. Ten minutes later, an army jeep drove into the same area, and two soldiers joined the settlers in preventing shepherds from accessing their land. The soldiers left the area at about 1:25 p.m. and drove to the escort meeting point.

Further departing from protocol, the jeep drove off into Ma’on settlement while two soldiers escorted the children on foot. The jeep rejoined the escort ten minutes later when it was almost over.

After five years of implementation, the Israeli military escort still has problems performing its legal duty. The escort sometimes is late, forcing the children wait alone in cold weather or unsafe locations. In addition, the army vehicles and soldiers on foot consistently stop and turn before the end of the route, which leaves the children to walk alone on a path where settlers have attacked them. During the 2007-2008 academic year, settlers attacked the children fourteen times, as documented in the report “A Dangerous Journey: Settler violence against Palestinian schoolchildren under Israeli military escort” [].

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