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Raids, tear gas, and a burned house: Three West Bank school days
Palestinians inspect a burnt-out house on March 20, 2016, belonging to a key witness to an arson attack in July 2015 by Jewish extremists that killed a Palestinian family, in Duma, Nablus.
Ramallah, May 7, 2016—Israeli military activities and settler violence disrupted classes and damaged school property in three separate incidents across the West Bank, preventing children from enjoying their right to an education.
Three incidents of violence and destruction were reported by the principals of Ali Sa'd Dawabsheh Basic Co-Education School in Duma, Nablus, Rohi Al-Hindi Basic Boys' School in Tell, Nablus, and Jaba'a Basic Girls' School in Jaba'a, Jenin. The incidents, which took place between mid-March and mid-April of this year, saw Israeli soldiers’ and settlers’ activities on or near three schools’ premises injure, intimidate, and impede children’s right to an education.
“Education is a crucial right which Palestinian children are frequently prevented from enjoying, even when they attend school,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at Defense for Children International - Palestine.
Earlier last month, on April 14, Israeli forces fired a gas bomb into the yard of Jaba’a Basic Girls’ School in Jaba’a, Jenin, the northernmost governorate in the West Bank. The principal, Ruweida Attalla, told DCIP that it detonated around noon near two classrooms, causing 325 children to be evacuated, and between 15 and 20 children to require first aid treatment at Jaba’a health center.
On March 22, at approximately 2 a.m., heavily armed Israeli soldiers raided Rohi Al-Hindi Basic Boys' School in Tell, central Nablus. “Apparently, the soldiers searched the entire school because they damaged everything and the locks were broken,” said the principal, Abdul-Kareem Nofal, who watched the raid on the school’s CCTV footage. “They searched all school facilities, broke the ping pong table, and vandalized the gym.”
Two days earlier, before 8 a.m., Israeli settlers reportedly set fire to a home about 200 meters (656 feet) from Ali Sa'd Dawabsheh Basic Co-Education School in Duma. Located on the southeastern outskirts of Nablus, the neighborhood is hedged in by a string of illegal Israeli settlements, including Ma’alae Efrayim and Esh Kodesh. Fearing further violence amid a heightened Israeli military presence and sounds of gunfire, about a third of the 270 students stayed home. By 8:30 a.m., heavy clashes had erupted between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youth near the school. "I saw rubber bullets landing inside the [school] yard,"said Huda Eid, the school's principal. "So I had to evacuate the school." Ambulances treated 11 children and two teachers for tear gas inhalation, including a pregnant teacher.
In the West Bank, where school attendance is compulsory until the age of 16, children are subjected to many obstacles while trying to access their right to education. Apart from attacks on schools, military checkpoints and settler violence also impede the ability of children to enjoy their right to education.
Military checkpoints mean that short journeys can take hours, delaying children from reaching school. Checkpoints are also hot spots for intimidation, assault, or arbitrary arrest of children. Settler and soldier violence against children en route to school or on schools themselves, prevent children from traveling and attending school safely.
Children in East Jerusalem are not immune to these risks, and likewise, suffer physical threats and unease while traveling to and from school, as well as inside school walls.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Israel in 1991, recognizes childhood as a time of increased vulnerability. Article 38 specifically obliges states to protect children, stating: “States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by an armed conflict.”
However, Israeli authorities rarely hold individual Israeli soldiers or settlers accountable for attacks on Palestinian children, or schools. The Palestinian police forces lack the authority to investigate or arrest Israeli soldiers or settlers for their activities in the West Bank. Consequently, Palestinian children are far too often left to choose between their own safety and their education.