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At-Tuwani – The 2nd of September began the new school year in the village of At-Tuwani and in most of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In order to reach the school of At-Tuwani, the Palestinian children coming from the villages of Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed, aged between 6 and 15 years, usually walk through the shortest route (about 20 minutes) that passes between the Israeli settlement of Ma’on and the outpost of Havat Ma’on (Hill 833). This route is the main road linking their villages and At-Tuwani.
Since 2001, Israeli settlers from Havat Ma’on have repeatedly attacked the children on the way to and from the school, preventing almost all of them from attending school and forcing the few able children to take a long and rough path. In 2004, the volunteers of Operation Dove and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) have begun to accompany the children along the shortest route, but the violent attacks suffered by the children and by the volunteers themselves made this solution impracticable. 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 and the settler violence. During the school year 2011-2012, the volunteers of Operation Dove registered that in 35% of cases the military escort was late, causing the children to loose about 19 hours of lessons. 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. In 8 cases (2% of the total), the military escort did not arrived at all. The soldiers themselves were aggressive towards the children in 28 registered cases, forcing them to run or putting them at risk with their behavior. In contravention of their mandate, in 47% of cases the soldiers did not walk with the children, while in 54% of cases they did not complete the agreed route, leaving the children in danger where they were repeatedly attacked. During the last school year, there were 17 cases of aggressive behavior of Israeli settlers against the Palestinian children, for a total of 143 attacks since the beginning of the military escort.
Although there were instances of effective intervention of the military in protecting the children, it can be concluded that the escort continues to be insufficient and often negligent in defending the Palestinian children from violence and in ensuring their right to education, in violation of Articles 2-3-6-16-19-38 of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
For further information on the military escort in the past years, it is available the report “The Dangerous Road to Education. Palestinian Students Suffer Under Settler Violence and Military Negligence”
Operation Dove has maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and South Hebron Hills since 2004.