Increased military presence at primary school where 27 children were recently arrested

Children walking past soldiers on their way to school - 7th May.

Children walking past soldiers on their way to school – 7th May.

On the 20th March, 27 children aged 7 to 16 were arrested on their way to school in Hebron’s old city. For the past three days the Israeli military have had a large, heavily armed and threatening presence outside the four schools on this street, where the children were grabbed at random by Israeli soldiers just five weeks ago.

Children have to walk through a checkpoint manned by several Israeli border police each morning in order to reach their schools, often receiving hassle from the soldiers as they do so. On the morning of the 5th of May, some children threw stones at the checkpoint – in response the border police radioed for army back up and two jeeps arrived on the scene. One jeep then proceeded through the checkpoint driving down towards the school parking outside whilst children were still arriving. After it left the other jeep drove down outside the schools and four army officers exited the vehicle and patrolled outside the schools for another half an hour.

On the 6th May at around 7.00am as children were walking towards their classes, three military jeeps arrived without provocation and ten soldiers patrolled in front of the school, maintaining a presence for over an hour.

On the 7th May two jeeps arrived at the checkpoint and seven soldiers walked through it, towards the schools. When asked what their purpose in the school area was, the commander answered “we’re protecting our people”. They had no further response when it was suggested that their actions seemed absurd, considering the disparity of power between the heavily armed Israeli military occupiers and a few young children throwing stones in resistance.

This daily military presence must be a continual reminder for the children who were arrested and their classmates of the military brutality of the 20th March. One bystander stated “this could inhibit the right to education – children might be too scared to come to school.”

In a city which has seen at least 66 child detentions and arrests since mid-February (these are just those witnessed by international observers), this continued initimidation and persecution of children is evidence of Israel’s disregard for international law for the protection of children – a finding backed up by Unicef’s recent report criticising Israeli military treatment of Palestinian children.

(Source / 07.05.2013)

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