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How Israeli Settlers Attack Kids With Impunity

Many Palestinians are resigned to a reality without safety for their children.

A Palestinian child stands across from an Israeli settlement and military base in Hebron’ Old City, where thousands of soldiers are stationed to protect some 600 settlers.
Photo Credit: DCIP/Dylan Collins


Editor’s note: This article is part three of a three-part series based on a DCI-Palestine report, which investigates the devastating effect on Palestinian children of growing up near Israeli settlements. Read  Part 1 and Part 2. Read the   DCI-Palestine report: Growing up between Israeli settlements and soldiers.

Urif Secondary School is located 13 kilometers (about 8 miles) south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus. It lies in close proximity to the Yitzhar settlement, and has become a frequent target of both settler and military attacks.

Nabil al-Najjar, the principal at Urif Secondary School, says the Israeli military has attacked the school six times since September 2013.

One of the most recent attacks took place on Jan. 12, 2014, on a day when students at the school were sitting exams. It started when settlers threw rocks at the school and Israeli forces arrived a short time later.

Al-Najjar says that the soldiers cut the cables to the school’s security cameras and waited at the front gate. At 9 am, a group of students finished their exam and left the school grounds. Shortly after, confrontations broke out between the students and soldiers.

Al-Najjar recalls that one group of soldiers entered classrooms while exams were still in session, but that teachers intervened and prevented them from arresting any students. Another group of soldiers surrounded the campus, firing rubber-coated metal bullets and launching stun grenades and tear gas canisters into the school grounds. The wind blew tear gas into the classrooms while students were still inside.

After al-Najjar negotiated with the army the soldiers retreated, but dozens of children were injured by rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas inhalation. A handful needed hospitalization.

The Israeli military uses what it calls “non-lethal riot dispersal” methods – including stun grenades, tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets – against Palestinian protests or clashes. In spite of their name, these methods can inflict serious, sometimes fatal, injuries, particularly on children.

According to a February 2014 Amnesty International report, two Palestinians were killed by weapons other than live ammunition between January 2011 and December 2013. Amnesty estimates that another 8,000 Palestinians were injured by such weapons, 1,522 of whom were children.

One of those children is six-year-old Mus’ab Sarahneh. He lost an eye after being hit in the face with a rubber-coated metal bullet fired by an Israeli soldier in Fawwar refugee camp, near Hebron, in September 2013. Mus’ab’s mother, Heyam, told DCI-Palestine in a statement that despite his serious head injury, they waited four hours for approval from Israeli authorities to travel to East Jerusalem for medical treatment.

A few days later, on Oct. 1, 2013, an Israeli soldier shot 16-year-old Yazan Mahmoud Abed Zaid in the leg with a rubber-coated metal bullet as he stood outside the UNRWA Boys’ School in Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah. Following the injury, Yazan underwent a five-hour surgery to remove the bullet.

An Israeli military spokesperson did not reply to DCI-Palestine’s requests for a comment about Mus’ab Sarahneh or Yazan Mahmoud Abed Zaid.

For Jalazoun residents, the presence of Israel’s Beit El settlement has created an environment that fosters conflict between the camp’s youth and Israeli soldiers. Home to nearly 6,000 Israeli settlers, Beit El is predominantly built on privately-owned Palestinian land and is surrounded by several checkpoints, military watchtowers and bunkers.

A permanent military watchtower overlooks an olive orchard that separates the UNRWA school from the Beit El settlement. Due to its proximity to the school, soldiers and private security are often present near the school, or in the camp, causing tension in the area.

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