Here is a chronology of the children’s journey to summer camp in the last weeks:
23 July – The military refused to escort the children. On their way to At-Tuwani, the children were chased by three settlers, one of whom was masked and carrying a stick.
26 July – At least four settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement outpost Havot Ma’on threatened the children on their way to summer camp. The children and my teammate and I had walked to the area where the Israeli military escort is meant to meet the children on their way to At-Tuwani. Israeli settlers walked towards the children, shouting and jeering. I called the military, explaining the dangerous situation. The military escort personnel told me the military was not coming. We then ran with the children all the way to Tuwani, fearing a settler attack.
27 July – Israeli settlers attacked the children and two of my teammates as they were walking in a valley south of Havat Ma'on. One masked settler came down the hill, hurling stones with a slingshot. The children and one teammate ran ahead, but saw other stone-throwing settlers approaching them from the opposite side of the valley. None of the stones struck the children, and they were able to run to safety.
When the masked settler saw my teammate Joel filming the attack, he began directing his stones at Joel. The settler hit him in the leg with a rock, inflicting an injury that made it impossible for Joel 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.
30 July – Five settlers hid themselves along the route of the children and waited for them as they were coming home from camp. When the children approached, the settlers began yelling, swearing, and throwing rocks at them. One settler jumped over the settlement fence and chased the children on a path leading to the village of Tuba. The Israeli soldiers assigned to protect the children abandoned the children approximately 500 meters earlier, thereby failing to complete the escort of the children as ordered by the Israeli Knesset.
The father of five of the children from Tuba told us, "The settlers must leave. If the settlers are here, there is no safety, only fear."
In 2004, the Israeli Knesset recommended that the Israeli military carry out a daily escort of the children of Tuba and Maghaer Al-Abeed to their school in At-Tuwani because settlers repeatedly attacked them. In 2006, Israeli Minister of Defense stated Havot Ma’on outpost should be dismantled because of the settlers’ violence towards school children. During the 2007-2008 school year, settlers used violence against these children on at least for fourteen occasions.That has been the last two weeks in a “nutshell.” More or less. But, as always, the Palestinians here in the South Hebron Hills are not helpless victims. They responded to these settler attacks. Nonviolently.
To be continued.
(For more images of the children's journey to and from At-Tuwani, visit http://cpt.org/gallery/album252)