Some children in Hebron have difficulty getting in and out of the school because of an Israeli military post and gate about 30 yards from their classrooms. During October and November 2017 the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem found four instances where Palestinian students and teachers at the Ziad Hamuda Elementary School were stopped, searched, and abused on their commutes. In at least one incident clashes broke out near the school with children filmed by field researchers fleeing from white plumes of tear gas.
“Occasionally, and unpredictably, soldiers stationed on the scene conduct random searches of passersby,” B’Tselem said in a statement today. Some students told the group they were stuck by soldiers when attempting to enter school, adding that a settler stood nearby recording the children on his phone.
A.J., 12, a 7th-grade student, told B’Tselem field researcher Manal a-Ja’bri:
As soon as we passed through the metal gate, we saw about six soldiers together with a settler. He photographed us with his cell phone. I asked him, ‘Why are you photographing us?’ And then suddenly a soldier attacked me. He was in a bad mood and had a bottle in his hand – I don’t know what was in it, maybe juice or maybe something else. He slapped me on the back of my neck. Then another soldier got involved and pushed me toward the wall. Then a third soldier intervened and moved them away from me, allowing me to leave the scene. […] Since then I’ve been afraid to go to school by myself […] The other students are also very afraid to leave school at midday because the soldiers bother us.
A teacher at the boys school, Muhannad a-Za’tari, 35, said the searchers and delays in entering and exiting are on-going:
“Over the past few years, the soldiers have entered the school on many occasions. They frighten and scare the students, and this has an effect on their academic achievements and their psychological condition. They also frequently search the children’s bags and even detain them. As members of staff, we also suffer from searches and have been delayed several times in the past as we passed through the gate that leads to the school. The situation also has an impact on the number of children who are registered for the school, because families prefer to avoid exposing their children to all this.”
“These incidents illustrate the casual manner in which soldiers can threaten and intimidate dozens of school students and several teachers, disrupting routine studies,” B’Tselem said, “These are not isolated or exceptional incidents, but an integral part of routine life in Hebron, where Israel has established several small settlement clusters within the heart of the Palestinian population.”
Hebron is the West Bank’s largest city. It is home to around 200,000 Palestinians, and 700 Israeli settlers. In 1997 the city was divided in two, with Israeli forces controlling most of the Old City, and the reminder under the control of the Palestinian Authority.