Locals make sure children from a West Bank village arrive in school safely after navigating verbal and physical intimidation from the illegal Jewish settlers and Israeli forces, report says.
It was just another day for Palestinian teen Ziyad Daragme, 14, as he made his way to school in the occupied West Bank. Instead, he landed up in a hospital with an eye injury as the road turned into a battle zone that morning on November 17.
Around 200 Israeli settlers accompanied by Israeli soldiers had blocked the highway that leads to his school, apparently in response to alleged incidents of, the teen told Haaretz.
Ziyad, like other children on the way to school, and villagers gathered to see what was happening when they came under a hail of rubber-coated metal bullets and teargas shells. He was hit in one of the eyes with a projectile.
At least 40 children were injured by Israeli bullets that day, while 60 others were affected by teargas. None of them could reach school, Haaretz reported quoting Falastin Noubania, a member of the village council. An 11-year-old boy was left with severe head injuries after he was hit by a rubber-coated bullet fired by Israeli soldiers.
Ziyad states that there was no stone-throwing incident that day and thinks Israeli settlers and troops want to block children from Lubban al Sharkiyah, and two nearby villages in the occupied West Bank, from reaching their school.
“The settlers want to shut down the school so they can take it over,” he said. “They also took over the old khan (old house) next to the village.”
Over the years, Palestinian children have often become collatarel damage in a battle they have a hard time understanding. Human rights NGO, Defense for Children International-Palestine, said in a recent report that at least 86 Palestinian children have been killed in the occupied territories since January, making 2021 the deadliest year on record for Palestinian children since 2014.
According to the Haaretz report published on December 16, this wasn’t the first time Israel has used intimidation and force at Lubban al Sharkiyah, a village in the West Bank.
Citing testimonies of children and locals, the paper said settlers and soldiers often curse and beat students to prevent them from reaching school, fire tear gas in the classrooms, and humiliate teachers. According to the local council, the army broke into the schools eight times during classes and soldiers prevented pupils from reaching the schools 76 times so far.
Several times, soldiers forced teachers to go down on their knees in front of students and settlers threatened children that their schools would soon be named “Brooklyn” or “Bnei Yisrael”.
Locals ensure the safety of students
The Israeli Defence Forces said this week that “friction in the area was significantly reduced” after “steps have been taken by the IDF, in coordination with representatives of the village”.
In the past few weeks, the incidents have stopped – thanks to joint effort by locals, but they’re vigilant, for a reason. The schools remain in a hotspot as Lubban is now being choked by settlements.
Every morning at 6:30, the head of the local council, Yakub Iwassi, arrives at the entrance to the village to escort the pupils to the schools – even though soldiers armed with rifles have been threatening him.
Iwassi’s staff help him in his efforts to ensure that pupils arrive at their schools safely, and a group of parents volunteers to document and film any potential incident in and around the schools.
Injured Ziyad’s mother Iman is so scared that she now accompanies her son to his school and sits through his classes.
Council member Mohammed Noubani is determined to ensure that the kids walk to their schools safely.“Our children have the right to walk along the side of the road to get to school. No one is going to dictate to us where our children are allowed to walk,” he said.