The Novel IDF & Settler Terror Tactic: Targeting Palestinian Schools

The Palestinian village of Lubban Al-Sharqiyah, located 15 kilometres south of Nablus, seems to have become the centre of a new collaborative settler and IDF terror tactic. This unprecedented strategy of intimidation targets schoolchildren on their commute to their schools on the outskirts of the village. The harassment of these children has become so systematic and deep, that the local community have been forced to develope a system whereby the children are accompanied by various adults along every stretch of their journey to their respective schools.

The recent weeks have seen clashes between the schoolchildren, who have allegedly thrown stones, and the fully armed Israeli soldiers and illegal settlers situated in the nearby areas. On a Wednesday morning a few weeks ago, for example a settler protest took place during the schoolchildren’s commute. The soldiers accompanying the settlers proceeded to fire tear gas grenades and rubber-coated bullets in an apparent attempt to disperse the children and force them back to their village. The local Palestinian villagers argue that this is part of a concerted intimidation tactic to force them to leave their villages and relocate to other areas.

According to a member of the village council, Falastin Noubani, the site of the protest resembled a battlefield, and 60 children in total suffered health related consequences due to the tear gas attack. 40 children were also wounded by the rubber-coated bullets, most of them lightly, though one boy, 11-year-old Ziyad Salame, was hit in the head by a rubber bullet with family members fearing for his life. Another was hit in the eye by shrapnel.

The head of the local village council, Yakub Iwassi, has kept a record of the various attempts by the army and the settlers in the local area to intimidate the residents of Lubban Al-Sharqiyah. According to his testimonies given to Haaretz Newspaper, the army:

“Broke into the schools eight times while classes were being held; troops prevented pupils from getting to the schools 76 times. Drones were spotted hovering over the area five times – it’s not clear whether the army or the settlers launched them, but they disturbed and frightened the children. Tear-gas grenades were thrown into classrooms seven times, and on each occasion the buildings had to be evacuated. Pupils were beaten 13 times, but did not suffer injuries. Thirteen pupils were taken into custody for a few hours or a few days. The IDF locked the schools’ gates 15 times. Settlers attacked pupils violently seven times. And there were about 100 incidents […] in which threatening troops or settlers stood near the schools’ entrances.”


Iwassi claims that an upsurge in such incidences has coincided with the formation of the new Bennet-Lapid coalition government. When asked by Haaretz newspaper why he believes the situation has become worse, he postulates that it is “Because this government is a settlers’ government. That’s the problem. When the prime minister is a friend of the settlers, this is the result. This is his way. The previous government was less of a settlers’ government than this one.” “This is not a life,” he continues, “Our children don’t have their minds on learning, only on how they will get home safely. The teachers are afraid for the pupils. This is not a life.”


The village has had some 5,000 dunams (1,250 acres) of land illegally appropriated from it for the building of the neighbouring illegal settlements of Ma’aleh Levona, Eli, Shiloh, and Givat Harel. These settlements are now choking the village in every direction, in an attempt to divest it of any contiguity with other Palestinian enclaves. This is part of the widespread and systematic Israeli policy, which in its essence strives to make life in the occupied territories scarcely worth living, in an attempt to forcibly displace the Palestinian population who reside there.

The wall of a school in Lubban al-Sharqiyah. Credit: Alex Levac

To be clear, Israel is under the obligation to protect those living under its military occupation. Therefore, its strategic targeting of Palestinian school children in the occupied territories constitutes a grave breach of international humanitarian law; while the incessant attacks on children on their way to their schools strikes the special foundational principles of humanitarian law that affords children special protection considering them as persons who are particularly vulnerable. Further, Israel is in violation of its obligations under human rights treaties, especially the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The systematic discrimination perpetrated against Palestinian children on the basis of their ethnicity has been a longstanding policy of Israel’s belligerent occupation, and continues to undermine the possibility of any reconciliation between the future Israeli and Palestinian generations.