AT-TUWANI: Israeli settlers attack Palestinian children, CPTers, on journey home from summer camp
[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.]
At 1:50 pm, on Sunday, 27 July, Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian children between the ages of six and fifteen and Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) members Joel Gulledge and Jan Benvie, who were accompanying them as they walked to their village of Tuba. The children had been attending summer camp in At-Tuwani.
As the fourteen children and two CPTers were walking in a valley south of the Havat Ma'on settlement outpost, one masked settler came down the hill, hurling stones with a slingshot. The children and Benvie ran ahead, but saw other stone-throwing settlers approaching them from the opposite side of the valley. None of the stones struck the children, however, and they were able to run to safety.
When the masked settler saw Gulledge filming the attack, he began directing his stones at Gulledge. The settler hit him in the leg with a rock, inflicting an injury that made it impossible for Gulledge to run away. The settler then wrested the camera from him, and began beating him with a rock and the camera. After that, the settler ran off with the camera. Gulledge was treated for his injuries at a hospital in Hebron and then returned to At-Tuwani.
In autumn 2004, Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian schoolchildren and At-Tuwani team members-three of whom required hospitalization for their injuries-in the same area as the attack on 27 July. Because of international media coverage of these attacks, the Israeli Knesset recommended that the Israeli military provide a daily escort for the children to go to and from school.
In the past week, the mayor of At-Tuwani has had several meetings with the District Coordination Officer (DCO)-the branch of the Israeli military that deals with civilian matters in the occupied Palestinian territories- in an attempt to arrange a military escort for the children. The DCO told him the children should walk the short, direct route to summer camp, unescorted.
On 22 July, only seven children were willing to risk walking alone to At-Tuwani. They informed the At-Tuwani team that at least eight other children did not attend the summer camp because they were too afraid to walk without a military escort. On the morning of 23 July, the army again refused to escort the children. Three settlers, one of whom was masked and carrying a stick, chased the children while they walked unescorted to the summer camp. After escorting the children on 24-25 July, military personnel informed the At-Tuwani team on 26 July that the army would no longer accompany the children, who were waiting for the army to arrive while four settlers from the Israeli settlement outpost of Havat Ma'on shouted at the children. The personnel would not give the name and brigade of the commander refusing to provide the escort. When the a CPTer explained the current, dangerous situation, the military personnel said, "I don't think the settlers will attack the children."
Photos of the children and CPTers walking the route between At-Tuwani and Tuba today and of Gulledge after the attack are available at http://cpt.org/gallery/album252.