[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.]
Israeli settlers from the illegal Havat Ma’on settlement outpost attacked Palestinian children walking to summer camp four times during the week of July 21-27. Settlers chased the children, ages 6-12, with sticks, yelled and swore at them, hurled stones at them and pursued them with dogs.
One masked settler hit CPTer Joel Gulledge in the leg with a rock and then beat him in the head, inflicting injuries that required stitches. The children escaped without harm, but some stayed home from camp because they were afraid of being attacked on the way.
The father of five of the children told CPTers, “The settlers must leave. If the settlers are here, there is no safety, only fear.”
The assaults occurred on days when the Israeli army refused to escort the children from their homes in the villages of Tuba and Maghaer Al-Abeed past the settlement to the summer camp in At-Tuwani.
In 2004, the Israeli Knesset recommended that the Israeli military carry out a daily escort of the school children because settlers repeatedly attacked them. In 2006, the Israeli Minister of Defense stated that the Havot Ma’on outpost should be dismantled because of the settlers’ violence towards the children. During the 2007-2008 school year, settlers used violence against the children on at least 14 occasions.
CPTers consider the Israeli military responsible for these continued violent attacks. The military’s failure to protect the children signals complicity with Israeli settler violence and ensures that Palestinian children will continue to be victimized.
Parents Respond with March
On August 2, more than one hundred children and their parents, accompanied by a few Israelis and internationals, marched from At-Tuwani to Tuba in response to the previous week’s settler attacks. They called for an end to settler violence and settlement expansion in the area, and drew attention to the Israeli army’s failure to protect the children.
At first, the Israeli military declared the whole area a closed military zone and restrained the march with force, targeting leaders. A CPTer tried to intervene when an Israeli soldier attacked a Palestinian man. The soldier knocked them both down and started choking the CPTer. Other marchers then intervened nonviolently and stopped the attack. One Israeli activist and another CPTer, Kristin Anderson-Rosetti, were arrested.
After Palestinian organizers negotiated with soldiers, the march proceeded as planned using the road between Ma’on settlement and Havat Ma’on outpost (Hill 833). A number of settlers harassed the marchers, but Israeli military and police prevented them from attacking the group.
One village elder walked that road for the first time in years. Surprised by the extent of the settlement expansion, she told a soldier about how she had plowed that same land many years ago.