The New Arab / November 29, 2021
Hundreds of Palestinian students were prevented from attending Al-Lubban school near Hebron/Al-Khalil on Sunday by Israeli forces.
The school, which lies in the West Bank town of Al-Lubban al-Sharqiyah, serves around 1,200 students from three Palestinian towns and has been unable to hold classes regularly over the past week due to Israeli roadblocks and settler activities.
Israeli soldiers even fired tear gas as children attempted to reach the school.
Last Thursday, students were forced back home after dozens of Israeli settlers gathered on a road leading to the school.
On Sunday, Israeli forces forcibly dispersed students, along with dozens of activists who had tried to shepherd them to class.
The school, which includes a section for boys and girls, is located three kilometres between Al-Luban and the neighbouring town of Al-Sawiyah in the middle of Area “C” – occupied Palestinian territories, which is controlled by Israeli forces and lies close to Israeli settlements.
School principal, Yasser Abu Ammar told The New Arab: “The school life is the only daily Palestinian activity in this area. If school life stops, the Palestinian presence here will end and the villages of Al-Luban and Al-Sawiyah will be cut off from each other, which might be what the settlers are looking for.”
“The Israeli army claimed that settlers have been attacked with stones on this road, and began to use it as an excuse to repeatedly block the way to the school since the beginning of the school year in September, and daily harass students on the way to the school and back.”
In September, Israeli forces raided the school, searching teachers and students, before forcing them out of the facility and sealing the gate.
“We later opened the gate and resumed classes, but Israeli forces began to ban students from using the road on the way back home,” he added.
Israeli settlers joined the Israeli army and police on highways to the school since last week.
On Thursday, a video was shared by Palestinian social media accounts showing Israeli settlers blocking access to the school to Palestinian children, amid the sound of cheering.
Mohammad Oweis, an Arabic language teacher at Al-Lubban school, described the Israeli soldiers’ behaviour as “real bullying”.
“Settlers often show up on the road and harass students. We, as teachers, are forced to accompany students on the way home in groups, which is time and effort-exhausting,” he told The New Arab.
“In the morning, a part of the teaching staff has to stay out on the road to protect the children. We do this until the last one has come in, and we often have to end classes early and evacuate students when Israeli forces or settlers begin to gather.”
Attending school has now become “unsafe”, one 15-year-old student, identified only as M.O., at Al-Lubban school told The New Arab.
“It’s a new risk every single day. We have to walk three kilometers, not knowing if we’ll make it to the school or not,” the student said.
“Last Thursday the Israeli army shot tear-gas and rubber-bullets at us, so we turned back and went home. When we were allowed [there] we have to walk into the school between soldiers, who sometimes stop us and search us.”
The teenager recalled the time Israeli forces raided the school at the beginning of the school year.
“They entered the school with a military jeep followed by foot soldiers and forced us out. Since then I can’t concentrate in classes, thinking that they might raid us again at any moment,” the student added.
According to UN figures, 1.2 million children attend school in the Palestinian territory. Some 79 children have been killed, 1269 injured and 225 detained by Israeli forces, since the beginning of 2021.
Qassam Muaddi is The New Arab’s West Bank reporter