[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 (OPT) are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]
The school year in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) for 2009-2010 began on Tuesday 1 September. The school children, who walk from the nearby villages of Tuba and Maghayir-al-Abeed to At-Tuwani's elementary school, continue to require a military escort in order to ensure their safety. On every day during the first three weeks of this new school year, the Israeli army has failed to complete the escort as agreed in 2004, leaving the children to walk alone in an area where they have been attacked by Israeli settlers. Instead, they complete only a little over half the distance of the escort.
Of the twenty-six journeys to and from school, soldiers have only walked with the children on six journeys, the other journeys they have remained in their vehicle. The soldiers have never completed the escort by escorting the children to and from the end of the Ma'on chicken barns. Remaining in their vehicle and not completing the escort leaves the children vulnerable to settler attacks and harassment. On one third of the journeys, the army escort has been late, resulting in the children being late for school or having to endure a long wait after school.
The shortest route to school for the Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed children is a public road that passes between the Israeli settlement of Ma'on and the outpost of Havat Ma'on. For years, armed Israeli settlers have attacked, threatened, and harassed the children along this road. In 2004, the Israeli District Coordinating Office (the branch of the Israeli military that deals with civilian matters) agreed to provide the children with an armed escort. The Israeli Knesset (parliament) Committee for Children's Rights endorsed the agreement.
The team now requests that concerned people make calls to the Communications office of the Southern District Commander of the Israeli Military, phone number (+ 972) 2 996 7200. * Request that Commander Ben Moha instruct the soldiers who perform the escort of the Tuba and Maghayir-al-Abeed school children to accompany the children all the way to the end of the Ma'on chicken barns and past any settlers present. Stress that this protection is particularly necessary because of the repeated presence of settlers in this area at the time of the children's walk home. Remind the commander that settlers used violence against the school children on ten occasions in the 2008-09 school year and that already during this school year a settler has threatened the children in the area of the Ma'on chicken barns.
If you have difficulty reaching Commander Ben Moha's office, try the following numbers:
IDF Public Appeals Fax: +972-3-569-9400*
IDF Public Appeals Phone: +972-3-569-1000*
In addition to phone calls, the team asks that people send the Israeli military's Public Appeals office a simple message by clicking on this link: http://dover.idf.il/IDF/
Sample message (no more than 75 words):
Subject: Request to Commander Ben Moha
Palestinian school children from Tuba and Maghayir-al-Abeed must walk past militant settlers from Ma'on and Havat Ma'on to attend school in At-Tuwani. The Knesset recommended in 2004 that the IDF escort these children. In order to ensure the children's safety, soldiers must accompany them all the way past the Ma'on chicken barns and past any settlers present. Currently soldiers are not escorting the children far enough to ensure their safety.
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
• This school year, the children have been late for school on three mornings out of thirteen.
• This school year, on nine of the thirteen school days, the children have had to wait after school for twenty minutes or more for the escort. On three days, they had to wait a little over half an hour, on two days forty-five minutes, and on one day nearly an hour.
• On the morning of Thursday 10 September 2009, the children had to wait twenty minutes at the Ma'on chicken barns because the army escort vehicle left the children to chase Palestinian shepherds from a nearby valley. The children were late for school.
• On the morning of Monday 7 September 2009, at the end of the Ma'on chicken barns, an Israeli settler came towards the children yelling at them. The children ran part way to school.
• During the 2008-2009 school year, settlers used violence against the children ten times; two of these times the settlers threw rocks at the children.
• For a complete report on the school escort in 2007-2008, including maps, photographs and interviews with the children, please see "A Dangerous Journey" at www.cpt.org/files/Dangerous-
•A report for the school year 2008-2009 will shortly be available.
*Please check your own country's dialing prefix for international calls.