Education Denied: Two schools closed and multiple injuries due to Israeli military teargas and rubber-coated steel bullets fired at Palestinians

11 December 2014—This morning the education of thousands of Palestinian children in Hebron was again compromised. While hundreds of children tried to walk to the seven schools near both the Qitoun/209 and Salimeh/29 checkpoints, Israeli border policemen fired teargas and rubber-coated steel bullets in response to a few children throwing stones towards the checkpoints. Even after classes began, the Israeli military continued to fire teargas. Two schools near the Salimeh/29 checkpoint closed within a half hour of the start of the school day. Two other schools reported additional problems caused by the actions of the Israeli military.

Al Khalil School, an elementary boys school with 270 students, DSCF5199had to close before 8:30 AM after four teargas canisters landed in the school courtyard. While CPTers were checking on the school, an ambulance came to take fourteen year-old Nasha’at Gaith, who’d been hit on the thigh by a teargas canister, to the hospital. Three teachers, Hani Hudoosh, Yaser Abu Zaanouneh, and Is’haq Badar also required medical attention for teargas exposure.

Khadeageh School, an elementary boys school with 400 students, had to close at 8:30 AM due to fumes from three teargas canisters that landed near the school’s entrance. Thankfully, no injuries were reported. Teachers shepherded the young boys out of the school, only for many students to run back in as the Israeli military continued to fire teargas into the street.

Tarek Ben Zyad School, a secondary boys school with 473 students, reported that 17 year-old Taha Abu Sneineh was hit on the upper arm with a rubber-coated steel bullet and was taken to the hospital for treatment.

DSCF5175Ibrahimi School, an elementary boys school with over 200 students, had to close a first grade classroom because of teargas fumes. The teacher conducted class in another room without the resources available in his own classroom. When CPTers arrived, about a dozen students sat in the office,  onions and alcohol pads under their noses, trying to dissipate the effects of the teargas they had walked through to get to school. One boy, who arrived late, was hospitalized for teargas exposure only yesterday. Teachers who had been waiting at the Qitoun checkpoint to make sure students could pass safely also recovered in the office.

Al Hejeryah School, an elementary boys school with 450 students, reported no problems beyond students exposed to teargas on the way to school.

Al Fayhaa School, an elementary girls school with 250 students, reported no problems beyond students exposed to teargas on the way to school.

The UN school, an elementary boys school, reported no problems for their students.

Education is a fundamental human right. The context of the Israeli military occupation threatens Palestinian children’s access to this right on a daily basis. Facing the threat and reality of teargas (and sometimes sound grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets) fired at their children on a nearly daily basis, Palestinian parents, teachers, and administrators have to make difficult decisions every day about how best to protect their children from these and other physical and emotional effects of living under military occupation: Should they send their children to school or keep them at home? What time should they send the children or walk with children to school to avoid these threats? How can schools address both the physical and emotional needs of students in this volatile context? On a given day, at what point do the physical and emotional effects make teaching impossible? How can students be kept safe if they need to be released from school due to untenable circumstances? Imagine having to answer these questions every day. Imagine trying to keep your children and students safe and not being able to do so because of the arbitrary nature of the Israeli military’s use of force.

Today some of the over 2,500 children who attend the seven schools near the Salimeh/29 and Qitoun/209 checkpoints went to school, learned new lessons, and went home. Their normal day “only” involved military checkpoints, the sight of heavily-armed border police, and the sound of teargas being fired near their schools. However, many students lost a complete day of learning or did not receive a full day of classes. Worse than that, many students lost another piece of their innocence and another sliver of the safety that all children deserve.