South Hebron Hills activists defy Israeli forces, rebuild tent March 19, 2013

Palestine News Network    -    18 March 2013

5646547_340_220On Monday 18th March, the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee rebuilt a tent near the village of At-Tuwani that provides shelter for schoolchildren after it was torn down twice by Israeli soldiers, a press statement by the international peace group Operation Dove said.

The first attempt was on Saturday 16th March, when Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists built a tent for the school children from Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed to wait for their military escort in. Hours after the ceremonious construction of the tent, attended by villagers, school children, internationals, and various media outlets, the military demolished the tent and arrested one of the internationals present.

The schoolchildren coming from Tuba and Maghayire Al Abeed walk between the Israeli settlement of Ma’on and the outpost of Havat Ma’on in order to get to school in At-Tuwani. Since 2001 settlers have repeatedly attacked the children along this rout, preventing most of the children, who feared for their safety, from being able to attend school. In 2004 volunteers from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) and Operation Dove began accompanying the children along the path, but the violent attacks continued. These attacks brought the matter to the attention of the Children Rights Committee of the Knesset, which established in November 2004 a military escort to protect the children.

From November 2004, CPT and Operation Dove have constantly monitored the military escort, documenting the failures of the Israeli army as well as settler violence toward the children. During the school year 2011-2012, the volunteers of Operation Dove and CPT published a report which found that in 35% of cases the military escort was late. In addition, in 48% of cases, the military escort arrived late after school, forcing the children to wait for a total time of about 21 hours. There is nothing to shelter the children, some as young as 6 years old, from the elements as they wait for their unpunctual military escort.

The Popular Committee wanted to give the children a tent to shelter them while they wait. The event had around one hundred in attendance. These included some of the children whom the tent was being made for, teachers and administrators from the school, international volunteers, Palestinians from At-Tuwani and surrounding villagers, and the media. The crowd was immediately met by soldiers who filmed all the attendees and took down Palestinian flags which children had put up around the building area. The children played and chanted in front of the soldiers while settlers on the next hilltop yelled down at them, “Kill all the Arabs.” The tent was completed and christened “Michele’s tent” after the late daughter of the Italian woman who funded the project.

As the afternoon wore on the crowd started to leave. Two hours after the tent was build the Israeli military demolished the tent, and arrested one of the international volunteers who had remained there. The volunteer was released, but must leave the West Bank for two weeks.

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