Jenin Today: They Shoot Children, Don’t They?

They shoot children, don’t they? Yes, they do.

They shoot schoolchildren, don’t they? Yes, they do.

They begin by prowling the streets at half past seven when students from kindergarten through university are making their way to school. They summon up all their courage to secrete themselves in heavily fortified tanks, armed with shells and dum dum bullets to defend against the danger of unarmed children. Who is hunting whom? The children and young adults are heading toward school. The hunters head toward the children. They find them in the streets, in the school yard, on the bus, and in their classrooms. The tanks’ rumble is audible from a distance and is terrifying, but the children walk at a leisurely pace, having learned to gauge the tank’s distance by the sound. The tanks emit a thick, acrid smoke that cloaks them from full visibility. These are large, clumsy machines, not terribly fast, but terribly forceful. They make the rounds of Jenin’s many schools, trying to enforce a prohibition on school attendance. Children, teachers, and staff continue to attend school, but the shooters continue to make a difference. Since 1 September, school has been in session for a maximum of fourteen days. When they shoot at the children in school, class is interrupted. This is not new, but it is still alarming. Here is today’s harvest of students caught by the brave hunters in their tanks.

Muhammad Yusuf Qaysi was seriously wounded in the chest by tank fire on his way to Salam High School. He is sixteen years old, in eleventh grade. He was taken to the Israeli Hospital in the Afula colony where they have superior medical capabilities.

Mahran Ahmad Rafiq Lahluh was shot at 8:15 a.m. as he came to Hittin School. He is thirteen years old, in seventh grade.

Sa’id al-Dub’i, a retarded boy, was wounded while walking near the Hisbi Market, where the tanks charge through as they they terrorise both schools and shops.

Rasha al-Salfiti, an eighteen year old student at American Arab University in Jenin was hit by tank fire as she sat in a bus in the bus station. The tank prevented the Red Crescent ambulance from reaching her. She bled profusely from wounds in the leg and shoulder for over ten minutes until she could be transported to hospital.

‘Alaa ‘Adil Abu Zayd, an eighteen year old student at Jenin High School was wounded on his way to school when shrapnel from a tank’s bullet ricocheted off a wall.

Unconfirmed reports say that two female university students were also wounded, one of whom was taken to Afula Hospital with critical injuries.

In addition, tanks attacked while students were inside the schools. Children at Khansa’ elementary school for girls took refuge lying on the floor as tanks fired at the windows. The Director of the Board of Education’s phone call was broadcast through the classrooms, telling them to be calm. It is no surprise that many of them were crying. However, when the tanks finished their morning operation around ten o’clock, classes resumed as normally as possible until the end of the school day at 12:30. This scene was repeated throughout the schools of Jenin.

Schools are targeted for shooting. Schoolchildren are targeted for shooting. Even nursery schools are on the shooter’s schedule. When schools change the times for beginning and ending the school day, the hunters are quick to adjust their schedule. Tanks shoot at the schools as they pass by in the streets. They stop at entrances and train their cannons on the windows. A dumdum bullet, one that explodes when it enters a body causing maximum damage, landed on the floor of a classroom in Hittin Elementary School. While the tanks are shooting, the children and their teachers conduct class crouching beside their desks.

Is there a reason that children and their education should be attacked? If this happened in your city, would you be silent? Are these children any less human than the children you know? While the teachers teach math, science, literature, and English, what are the tanks teaching?

They shoot schoolchildren, don’t they? Yes, they do. Who are they? They are the Israeli Army. They are Israel. Israel shoots Palestinian schoolchildren.

Dr. Annie Higgins is an Arabic and Arabic literature lecturer at the University of Chicago and is a former recipient of the Fulbright-Hays Fellowship. She is currently in Jenin.