13 October 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
For the third morning children and teachers from Qordoba Scool gathered on the H1 side of Checkpoint 56 at 7.30am. The children, with the support of their teachers and the Director of Education in Hebron, Nisreen Amro, peacefully protested against heightened “security measures” that were introduced by the Israeli Army on Tuesday 11th October 2011.
The protest was covered by local, national and international press.
School children as young as 6 years old had their lessons outside, sitting on the floor by the checkpoint while standing at intervals to passionately chant, “We will not return, we want our right to education.”
The Director of Education in Hebron, representatives from the Governor of Hebron’s office, and teachers from Qordoba School attempted to reason with the soldiers, however the army continued to refuse anyone entry through the checkpoint gate. The Israeli Army’s response to the children’s peaceful protest was to send approx 10 soldiers and border police through the checkpoint to push the children further away from the checkpoint entrance.
For the past seven years teachers have had an agreement with the Israeli army that they can pass through the checkpoint gate instead of the metal detectors. However two days ago without giving prior notification the Israeli army changed the rules – they are currently insisting that everyone, including teachers, pregnant women and people with heart complaints/ pace makers must pass through the metal detector.
As previously reported by ISM the children’s impromptu protest on Tuesday 11th October resulted in a number of children requiring hospital treatment after being hit (with the butts of rifles) and kicked by both the Israeli army and the Israeli Police. Initially ISM reported that 7 children were taken to hospital, however today the father of one of the injured children informed ISM that 9 children were taken to hospital with injuries (1 boy and 8 girls). Fortunately all 9 children were able to leave hospital after a few hours.
Today ISM volunteers interviewed 11 year old Yazan Sharbati, one of the boys violently dragged into the checkpoint by an Israeli Police Officer on Tuesday 11th October as seen in the following video.
Sharbati stated, “There were no teachers in the school and so we protested to the army that we wanted our teachers. The army told us to go back to school, we told them that without teachers there is no school.”
Sharbati was asked how he felt when the Policeman grabbed him and pushed him into the checkpoint.
“I was so afraid that something bad was going to happen. He pushed me very hard,” he said.
When asked if he intends to continue protesting against the closure of the gate at Checkpoint 56 Sharbati replied, without hesitation, “Of course”.
The Director of Education for Hebron, Nisreen Amro, said to ISM volunteers “If the Israeli Army does not reverse their decision by Sunday, chalkboards will be brought to the checkpoint and lessons will be held here.”
At the end of the protest as ISM volunteers left the checkpoint they observed soldiers refusing to allow a far along, pregnant, Palestinian lady through the checkpoint gate. She and her toddler were forced to climb the steep hill next to the checkpoint in order to avoid the metal detector.
International volunteers will continue to observe and report on any future protests.