Press Release: Palestinian communities in South Hebron Hills demonstrate against the occupation and to claim their rights

At-Tuwani, South Hebron Hills / November 27th, 2010

On Thursday 25th and Friday 26th of November, the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee organised two peaceful and nonviolent actions with the purpose of denouncing the harassment that the population living in this area suffers daily from Israeli army and settlers.

On the morning of Thursday 25th of November, at the end of classes, children from At-Tuwani school, together with some villagers, teachers and internationals, demonstrated in solidarity with their schoolmates living in the nearby villages of Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed in protest against the negligence of the military escort that everyday should assure them a safe journey to and from school.

Children with banners reached the place where their schoolmates wait for the Israeli military escort every day. Here they started a silent sit-in facing the escort soldiers, who were already there, during which they claimed their right to education and safety, asked for the end of Israeli settlers’ aggressions and the occupation and reminded the soldiers that they should come on time every day and escort children in a proper way, not detain or arrest them, as it happened on the last 21st of November (see press release: snipurl.com/1j50d6).

Schoolchildren from Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed walk to the school in At-Tuwani everyday along a road where they have been repeatedly attacked by the Israeli national-religious settlers living in Ma’on settlement and Havat Ma’on outpost. On 2005, the Knesset Children Rights Committee set up a military escort that everyday must protect children from settlers, accompanying them on the way to and from school. To protect children in a proper way, soldiers should come on time and walk with them until the end of the settlement. Actually, soldiers hardly ever walk with children and just follow them on the jeep; they often come late, exposing children to the risk of being attacked and causing them to miss several hours of school; or, in some cases, they don’t come at all forcing children, after waiting for a long time, to go back home through a longer path, accompanied by internationals from Operation Dove and Christian Peacemaker Teams.

On the morning of Friday 26th of November, about forty women, men and children from the villages of At-Tuwani and Um Fagarah, together with twenty internationals, walked along the road that from At-Tuwani continues southwards connecting many Palestinian villages of the South Hebron Hills to the rest of the West Bank. Stopping near the village of Um Fagarah, they started to work together in to repair part of the road that had been damaged with bulldozers by Israeli army.

The Israeli Military heavy patrols the area and has often damaged or blocked part of it, thus preventing the population in the area from freely traveling to reach school or work. The children and teachers that every day travel to the school in Al Fakheit are often stopped and searched by Israeli army. Sometimes the soldiers even confiscated the vehicle used for transportation (see press release: snipurl.com/1j4zxx). 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.

The action had a positive outcome and will be repeated every Friday until the road will be completely repaired. This kind of action is only one example of the many activities organized by the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee to assert the rights of the local population and to resist the Israeli occupation in a nonviolent way.

Operation Dove and Christian Peacemaker Teams have maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and South Hebron Hills since 2004.

[Note: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havat Ma’on (Hill 833), are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]