'Ten attacks per month': Israeli settlers, soldiers target schools and nurseries

'Ten attacks per month': Israeli settlers, soldiers target schools and nurseries
There have been at least a dozen attacks per month over the past year-and-a-half in the West Bank, with settlers targeting school children.
3 min read
12 November, 2020
Palestinian children are targets [Getty]
Israeli forces and settlers launched an average of ten attacks a month on West Bank nurseries and school students, staff and facilities between January 2018 and June 2020, a new report by the Norwegian Refugee Council has revealed.

Over the 30 month period there were 296 reported attacks against education centres, students, and staff by Israeli forces, settlers, and private settlement security guards with the report noting 235 separate incidents of violence.

These attacks included army raids on schools, incidents of harassment, arbitrary arrests, assault of children in schools and checkpoints, firing towards children and blocking teachers and children from reaching schools.

Schools were also demolished and European Union-funded equipment was confiscated, according to the report.

"Israel, as the occupying power, has failed to ensure that Palestinian children can safely access schools. The Israeli forces have instead themselves denied children education and demolished schools for vulnerable communities in the West Bank," said NRC Secretary-General Jan Egeland.

"Israel's policies and practices toward Palestinian schools have created an environment of constant fear that traumatises children, while abandoning its obligation under international law to not commit attacks on education."

First-hand testimonies from Palestinian children reveal the shocking level of violence they have endured or been exposed to.

Twelve-year-old Mahmoud, who attends Burin secondary school in Nablus, was hit on the head by a tear gas canister, shot into the schoolyard by soldiers when armed settlers gathered outside the building in February.

"I did not see the canister because there was so much smoke that I could not open my eyes. I was not breathing much, either," Mahmoud said. He was hospitalised due to his injuries.

"I hit my head and I started bleeding."

Another child, twelve-year-old Haitham from Jabal Al-Baba, said there was no school in his local community, forcing him to walk an hour a day to reach and return from his nearest school.

"The occupation army does not allow us to have one [a school]," he said.

"We built one, but it was demolished. We will build it again. Even if the army demolishes it, we will rebuild it."

Last week Israeli forces in West Bank razed a Palestinian village called Khirbet Humsa, resulting in the displacement of 73 people including 41 children.

It, like other Bedouin villages in the Jordan Valley, have been the target of Israeli forces and declared army training "firing zones".

Some 700 structures have been destroyed across the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2020 – more than any year since 2016, The Guardian has reported.

"These are some of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank," said Yvonne Helle, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory.

About 450,000 Israeli settlers live alongside roughly 2.7 million Palestinians in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967.

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