Israeli settlers attack Palestinian family on their way home in Hebron

Violent attacks like these are hard for many to believe, but are common place in Hebron

Khayed, the disabled son of Mohammad and Ramsina.  Here he watches as they are taken to the hospital in an ambulance after settlers attacked them on October 29. Photo EAPPI/M. Ward

Khayed, the son of Mohammad and Ramsina, watches as his parents are taken to the hospital in an ambulance after settlers attacked them on October 25, 2013. Photo EAPPI/M. Ward

On the evening of October 25, Mohammed, Ramsina and their 4 year old daughter Aya, parked their car near the Israeli settlement outpost of Givat Ha’avot in Hebron.  They are not allowed to drive their car to their house, as vehicular access is restricted for Palestinians in that neighborhood of Hebron.  As they were walking home carrying sweets, Israeli settlers, visiting Hebron for the the holiday of Shabbat Sarah, harrassed them.

The settlers swore at Ramsina and insulted her. A male settler about 20 years old spat at the family.  Then they began to block the way for Mohammed and his family.  When Mohamed asked them to move, the settler hit him in the face. Mohammed began to fight back, but many more settlers arrived and surrounded the family. Ramsina told Aya to run home. She arrived home yellow in the face from shock, neighbors recalled.

Meanwhile, the settlers began to beat Mohammed and Ramsina.  They tried to pull of Ramsina’s hijab, head covering, and punched her in the neck and sprayed pepper spray in her eyes.  After that, she passed out.  She remembers waking up in the ambulance.

Before the ambulance arrived, their son Khayed, who is disabled, walked by on his way to the mosque to pray.  He became very upset when he saw the settlers attack his parents, but the settlers began to beat him too.

Even when the neighbours came to carry Mohammed and Ramsina back to their house and call an ambulance, Israeli settlers followed them and surrounded them shouting; “There are Arabs here, come and attack them.” During the incident, the Israeli soldiers stood by and did not help Mohammed and Ramsina. They even tried to arrest the neighbors who assisted Mohammed and Ramsina.

When EAPPI arrived at the scene, there were roughly 10 soldiers, military jeeps, Israeli police, and an ambulance outside the home of Mohammed and Ramsina. Khayed stood nearby, looking visibly distressed. Later that night, Mohammed and Ramsina were released from the hospital.

The next day EAPPI’s Hebron team visited the family. Mohammed and Ramsina recalled that this is not the first time Israeli settlers attacked Mohammed and Ramsina’s family, but they are now more fearful. Ramsina explained:

“Since the attack we have closed all the shutters at the front of our house and told our daughters to stay away from the front of the house – we are scared that the settlers will come again.”

Children: what’s the toll of occupation?

Photo EAPPI/M. Schaffluetzel

Photo EAPPI/M. Schaffluetzel

by Jake, Jayyus team

Although children do not choose to participate in conflicts, from an early age they are often caught in the crossfires of hostility, violence, or war. Their loss of innocence and a carefree childhood is an especially tragic part of conflict.

Last Sunday, I was traveling to Nablus with another member of the Jayyus EAPPI team. As we approached the road where we expected to catch a taxi, we noticed the Israeli army detaining two young Palestinian boys across the road from us. The boys leaned against the guardrail with their backpacks at their feet as a soldier kept guard over them. The difference in size between them and the soldier was a striking illustration of the imbalance of power between the boys and the soldiers.

When one of the fathers asked questions of the soldier, he answered very few questions. Eventually, the soldiers led the boys to the back of an army jeep and drove off with them. When the rest of the families arrived shortly afterwards, they wondered where their children were being taken and what would happen to them.

Palestinians who witnessed the scene told us that the boys were picking leftover olives – as many boys do at this time of year for some extra pocket change – in an olive grove that runs alongside the road when they were detained. The Israeli army claimed that the boys were detained because they were in fact throwing stones at Israelis on the road.

That evening, I couldn’t forget what I had seen that afternoon. I don’t know whether they had thrown stones or not, but the reality was that these boys were now in the hands of people whose treatment of Palestinian youth is often dubious. I wondered helplessly what they were going through at that moment and how scared they were.

A few days later, another member of the Jayyus team and I visited the two boys who were detained. Thankfully, they were released the same night. As we sat in their living rooms and drank coffee with their families, they recounted their experiences to us.

They told us about how they were handcuffed and brought to a police station in a settlement. About how they were left to sit out in the cold for two hours. About how they witnessed an Israeli soldier beat another boy being beaten. About how the soldiers knew they did not throw the stones, but kept them for eight hours anyway.

The events of the detention traumatized one of the boys especially. We could tell he was still frightened and in shock. For that reason, his mother did not sent him to school that week.

As I sat there, I could not think of any appropriate questions to ask him or his family. What I really wanted to know could not be answered in that moment. What I wanted to know about this boy and about the Palestinian youth was the toll of occupation. Do these kinds of traumatic events leave imprints that lasts a lifetime? Does living in constant fear of unjustified arrests, detainments, and having the army knock down your door in the middle of the night ever become normal? How can children and their families possibly cope with this fear?

Maybe I cannot answer these questions fully, but they in themselves point to the effects of the Israeli occupation; it is ruthless and relentless and children are suffering because of it. Of that, I’m convinced.

EA Blog: Access to Education… Through a Tunnel

by Maureen, Jayyus Team

“Everyone has the right to education.”  Article 26 (1), Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948  (ratified by Israel.)

International humanitarian law and international human rights law are central to the work of EAPPI.  One of our tasks is to monitor children’s access to education.  We stand at checkpoints or gates where children have to cross on their way to and from school.  We watch to see that soldiers behave appropriately towards them.  Where it’s necessary, EAs walk with children through checkpoints.  But I recently came across a new problem for children in simply getting to school.

Last week I was with our EAPPI team in Jerusalem for a few days.  We visited Ka’abne, a small Bedouin village of about sixty people, near Adam settlement, not far from A Ram, between Jerusalem and Ramallah.  We went because we had heard that they had received a stop work order; if they took no action, this could quickly be followed by a demolition order, and then by the demolition of the tent in which some of them were living.

As we spoke to the adults, the children were playing round about us.  It was natural to ask about their school.  Mohammed, the man who had received the stop work order, told us that his children, like the other kids in the village, go to a school on the other side of a busy main road, which cars speed along.  We watched the traffic on the road; it would be dangerous for an adult to attempt to cross it, let alone a child.

‘How do the children go to school?’ we asked.  ‘They go through the tunnel,’ Mohammed said.  He and his brother told us that the tunnel was only 60cm high.  To be honest, I was sceptical.  That seemed very little.  So we went to have a look.

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With Mohammed at the entrance to the tunnel. Photo: EAPPI/K. Dimond

As you can see from the photos, the tunnel is very small indeed.  Going through it, the children have to crouch all the way along.  With a school rucksack on your back it must be really difficult.  My fellow EA, Keith, and I reckoned that the tunnel was about twelve metres long.

It’s not just the size that’s a problem.  It’s really more of a culvert than a tunnel.  When it rains, the tunnel has several inches of water in it.  One of the children told me that his teacher had sent him home from school one day because his trousers were so wet.  The children said that in the summer there are snakes, which is especially frightening for the little ones.

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Coming through the tunnel. Photo: EAPPI

The children were full of fun, and a couple of the boys grinned as I was hauled out and up from inspecting the tunnel.  Mohammed’s son, Abdullah, told us that his ambition is to be a lawyer.  He said that he likes school.  ‘But I don’t like the tunnel,’ he said.

The Fourth Geneva Convention 1949 explicitly states that an Occupying Power assumes responsibility for ensuring the provision of services to the population of the territory it is occupying.

The children I met in this small community, like children everywhere, have the right to education.  Don’t they have a right to better access too?   And doesn’t Israel have a responsibility to ensure that access?

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Abdullah, one of the children who goes through the tunnel each day to and from school. Photo: EAPPI