ISM watched over two different checkpoints in al-Khalil (Hebron) on the 31st of August, Qeitun (209) and Salaymeh (29), both separating the H1 and H2 zone in this occupied city (H1 is supposedly under full Palestinian Authority control, H2 under full Israeli military control).
At the Salaymeh checkpoint, three tear gas canisters were fired at children on their way home from school. One child threw a stone in the direction of the checkpoint, and due to apparent problems with the gun, the soldier at the checkpoint did not fire.
A few moments later, a child approached the checkpoint in order to pass it and the soldier fired a tear gas canister right at the child’s feet. The gas filled the street and schoolchildren, some as young as six-years-old, had to flee the area coughing while their eyes streamed.
Later a group of three Palestinian children threw stones towards the checkpoint and the soldiers fired another tear canister at the children. The same routine repeated moments later. The tear gas lingered in the air for several minutes, irritating bypassing schoolchildren, teachers, and others residents walking in the street.
Similarly, children passing through the Qeitun checkpoint did not end their school day unharmed. A group of children threw stones towards the checkpoint from a rooftop. The soldiers fired a total of four tear gas canisters on the roof where the children were located.
This afternoon, September 2nd, two ISM volunteers watched over Salaymeh checkpoint at school closing time. Two Israeli soldiers were stationed at the checkpoint to begin with, and as usual, children started walking home after a day at school. At one point two young boys threw stones at the checkpoint. This was shortly followed by a short-range tear gas canister fired by one of the soldiers, which was aimed at the stone-throwing children but primarily affected those who needed to pass the cloud of tear gas in order to reach their homes.
As two more tear gas canisters were fired, many of the smaller children became scared, crying and running in panic. Minutes later, two more soldiers arrived at the checkpoint. One boy threw five or six stones towards the checkpoint, as with other stones, none of them reached the checkpoint or the soldiers. Two more short range canisters of tear gas were fired, as well as three or four long range canisters, one landing inside the school yard and the others landing in the middle of a group of approximately 80 children, exiting the UN school further down the street.
One tear gas canister landed in the path of three schoolchildren, no older than six-years-old, who were walking in the direction of the checkpoint, the ISM volunteers saw how one of the two girls was dragged away from the tear gas by the boy, however the other girl did not run away, seemingly too shocked and scared to move.
An ISM volunteer present said, “I ran into the cloud of gas to get the crying girl away and into safety. In a situation like that it is difficult to show a child, who is so terrified and wary of the world around her, that she can trust you. Especially as it becomes difficult to see and breath when surrounded by tear gas. Thankfully she took my hand and I led her to the other two children who she was walking with.”
The groups of children affected by the teargas were more than hundred meters away from the checkpoint and were no threat to the soldiers in any way. This resulted in children being delayed on their way home, either because they had to wait for the gas to clear or because they were forced to take a detour home. It is clear to see how the Israeli army’s tactic of collective punishment is carried out in the daily lives of Palestinians, and children suffering from tear gas inhalation before and after school is not an unusual occurrence in Hebron.