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Masafer Yatta/South Hebron Hills – On Sunday, 20 December 2009, the Israeli army disrupted transportation of children and teachers from Al-Fakheit school to their homes. The Palestinian driver, accompanied by one CPTer, was on his way to pick up children and teachers after school when, at about 1:00 p.m. soldiers in a Humvee stopped the pickup truck used as a school bus. The soldiers confiscated the driver’s ID, searched the truck and personal belongings in it, and ordered that the driver follow them to a field south of Jinba village.
Because the soldiers refused to allow the truck to take the children to Jinba, teachers and students had to walk an hour through the hills in the midday sun to get there. The headmaster reported later that two children became ill from the heat and required medical attention.
The Palestinian driver and CPTer spent over an hour in the field with the soldiers, who demanded the truck’s registration and ignition key, examined the engine for serial numbers, took photos of the truck and made various phone calls. According to the soldiers, the truck’s registration was invalid and they were calling the police to confiscate it. “In Israel we have rules,” one soldier told the CPTer.
More soldiers arrived, along with gear and a small water tank, but no police. At 2:45 p.m. the soldiers finally returned the driver’s ID, allowing him and the CPTer to leave by foot.
Al-Fakheit school opened this year to accommodate students living in Maghayir Al-Abeed, Markaz, Halawe, Fakheit, Majaaz, and Jinba. Previously, children from these hamlets attended school in Yatta, which required that they live in the city Sunday through Thursday. Now the teachers at Al-Fakheit school travel from Yatta each day and pick up schoolchildren along the route.
Children and teachers in the South Hebron Hills face ongoing obstacles when traveling to school. The Israeli military heavily patrols the road and surrounding area, randomly preventing Palestinians from accessing their education and work. Teachers and school children traveling to Al-Fakheit are sometimes stopped and searched by the Israeli military. In August 2009 the Israeli military attempted to dismantle the road with heavy machinery, worsening the road’s already poor condition after years of Israeli authorities prohibiting Palestinians from making repairs or improvements.
As a result of these tactics, Palestinians spend extended periods traveling to their destination, and they are often late for school or work. In addition, the Israeli military is threatening to permanently close the road, which would completely deny Palestinians’ access to education, work and their lands. The army’s presence and interference with residents’ movements in this area undermines the basic human rights of Palestinians by hindering their ability to live in their villages and cultivate their lands.
For pictures of the Al-Fakheit school: http://cpt.org/gallery/School-in-Al-Fakheit
For pictures of the army dismantling the road: http://cpt.org/gallery/roadblock-on-road-to-Jinba
For background information about the communities of Msafer Yatta, download report of the Israeli human rights group B’tselem: http://www.btselem.org/Download/200507_South_Mount_Hebron_Eng.pdf