For the second week in a row, about thirty Israeli settlers from Ma’on ambushed Palestinian children and the Israeli soldiers escorting them home from school on May 6. Settlers hurled rocks, then stormed the group, kicking and shoving soldiers and children alike. Several children sustained injuries; three required medical attention. One soldier fired his gun into the air after being punched in the face by a settler.
CPTers, observing the daily escort from a nearby hill, heard the children’s screams and the gunshot and rushed to the scene. Soldiers had already called the police, however no settlers were arrested for the attack. CPTers contacted the children’s parents and members of the Israeli peace group, Ta’ayush, who were already en route to the area. They in turn called the Israeli media and started to negotiate with the army to help evacuate wounded children to the hospital in Yatta.
“The external injuries were relatively minor,” reported CPTer Diane Janzen. “It’s the internal ones – in the minds and the hearts of the children – that worry me.”
Following repeated assaults by Israeli settlers in the fall of 2004, Israeli soldiers and police began escorting Palestinian children past the settlements between their homes in Tuba and their school in at-Tuwani. However, their protection of the children has been haphazard and half-hearted, with the escorts often showing up hours late or not at all.
Originally the military escorted the children along the shortest route past the settlements – a road which goes between the main Ma’on settlement and the Ma’on Outpost (Hill 833). In early May, they stopped using the short route and began taking the children on a longer road that goes right beside the houses of the most radical settlers that live in the Outpost. This angered the settlers who set up a roadblock of huge rocks to prevent the army escort jeeps from passing. The recent attacks occurred at this roadblock which Israeli authorities would not remove.
When asked by a reporter why they were not using the shorter, more direct road anymore, an Israeli military spokesperson claimed that the children had been “gathering operational intelligence.”