08 February 2011 | Operation Dove & Christian Peacemaker Team
At-Tuwani, South Hebron Hills, West Bank – On the afternoon of 7 February 2011, three Israeli settlers from Havat Ma’on outpost chased a group of 12 Palestinian schoolchildren who were walking home from school. The Israeli military had failed to arrive to escort the schoolchildren, forcing the children to take a longer path without the army’s escort.
Shortly after the schoolchildren and Christian Peacemaker Teams(CPT) volunteers set out on the path towards Tuba and Maghayir al-Abeed villages, Israeli settlers, two of whom were masked, emerged from the grouping of trees which encompasses Havat Ma’on and began moving towards the children. Upon seeing the settlers, the children turned and sprinted to distance themselves from the settlers. Several children began crying and screaming in fear as they ran away from the settlers, one young girl began shaking uncontrollably as soon as she stopped running from the settlers.
The Israeli Border Police, who were located on an adjacent hill for the duration of the incident, arrived at the scene after the Palestinian children had safely distanced themselves from the settlers. The Border Police stopped and spoke with the settlers, two of whom remained masked during the entire conversation with the authorities.
The Border Police then approached the edge of At-Tuwani village where the children, CPT volunteers, and Palestinian adults had gathered. Border Police officers spoke with a CPT volunteer and an At-Tuwani resident, seeking to understand what had happened. After hearing their accounts but refusing to hear the role the settlers had played, the officers suggested that the Palestinian children, internationals, and At-Tuwani villagers were the ones causing problems, rather than the settlers.
Before the children had set out on the longer path without the military escort, CPT volunteers had called the Israeli military four times inquiring as to the whereabouts of the escort. During CPT’s final call to the military – more than 30 minutes after their initial call – the military dispatch office said that they hadn’t yet called the soldiers, who were to provide the escort, because they were too busy and had more important duties to perform.
Operation Dove and Christian Peacemaker Teams have maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and South Hebron Hills since 2004.