Attacks on Palestinian schoolchildren by Jewish settlers continue in the southern West Bank.
On Saturday, messianic settlers affiliated with the Gush Emunim movement (block of faithful) from the small colony of Maon south of Hebron assaulted Palestinian children with stones twice, injuring four children.
One child suffered a head injury, according to Palestinian sources.
The settlers attacked children first in the morning when they went to school and again in the afternoon as they returned home.
The Israeli security forces did not arrest any of the attackers.
The settlers, whose ultimate goal is to coerce Palestinian villagers to abandon their land, have in recent days escalated their attacks on Palestinians, especially the inhabitants of the small village of Tuwani.
Last week, children from the neighbouring village of Tuba were attacked by settlers on their way back from school.
The children waited at least three hours for an Israeli army escort as settlers blocked the road.
None of the settlers was arrested.
"They (the settlers) were carrying stones, clubs and some sharp objects. They behaved in a way suggesting that they would want to slaughter the children. These people are really sick," said Ahmed Hasan, the father of one of the stranded children.
In Hebron, Jewish settlers have been attacking Palestinian schoolchildren, especially in the vicinity of a Jewish settler building on the western edge of the old town, known as Dabboya.
A fortnight ago, 15 settlers attacked the Cordoba (Cordova) Girls school. Students of the school are normally escorted by foreign peace volunteers.
According to two volunteers - Karin Laier from Germany and Tore Ottsen from Norway - the settlers threw stones at the girls and the volunteers. Laier and Ottsen were hit.
Three other peace activists working with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were attacked by the same group of settlers. A 79-year-old activist was among those assaulted.
On April 1, settlers assaulted and seriously injured Silvana Hogg, a Swiss activist.
According to the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, which sends international volunteers to accompany Palestinian schoolchildren to and from school, the latest incidents are part of a wave of settler attacks in the region around Hebron.
The Israeli occupation army said it is doing everything it can to maintain law and order.
"The armed forces do everything they could to maintain the peace. However, settler behaviours and possible attacks on Palestinians and foreigners are for the police to deal with," a local Israeli civil administration official to Al Jazeera.net.
Arif al Jabari, the governor of Hebron, accused the army of "effectively conspiring with the settlers against the Palestinians".
"You see this city has an Arab population of 182,000 Arabs and some 450 fanatic Jewish settlers. The Israeli army, which deploys hundreds if not thousands of troops here, knows very well what the settlers are doing but does next to nothing to stop them.
"And when the victims go to the Israeli police to complain, they are told to produce miraculous evidence that would indict the settlers, like the name of the settlers involved in the attacks, their ID numbers."
Settler leaders in Hebron declined to be interviewed for this report.
A cohort of Israeli intellectuals, academicians and artists have joined hands in demanding protection for Palestinian school children against repeated assaults by Jewish settlers, Israel's Haaretz daily reported on Wednesday, May 10.
"Beyond the disgrace that requires military escort for small children and the powerlessness in the face of the attackers, it seems the escort in its current format is not enough to protect the children," they said in a letter sent to Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert.
"The subjection of elementary school children to attacks of lawbreakers in the absence of proper defense is unbearable," read the letter.
Palestinian children living in the village of Umm-Tuba near the occupied West Bank town of Al-Khalil (Hebron) have long been subject to harassment by Jewish settlers.
In order to go to school in the neighboring village of Hirbat al-Tawani, the children have to walk near the Maon settlement and the outpost of Havat Maon.
Jewish settlers living along the path have repeatedly ambushed the young students.
On Saturday, they pelted the kids and the Israeli police escort with stones, injuring four children and two soldiers. One settler even set his dog on the kids.
Despite the violence and the resulting injuries, not one settler has been arrested, according to the Israeli daily.
The prominent Israeli artists and intellectuals asserted that the Palestinians' right to education is "a basic human right," asserting that Israel is responsible for its full protection.
"We demand the IDF be instructed to provide the children of the village with full and proper protection which will guarantee these children travel to and from school in peace," they said referring to the Israeli army.
The intellectuals also stressed that settler troublemakers should be held accountable.
"We call on law enforcement authorities to apply justice to the settlers from Maon and the outpost of Havat Maon, and not stand in the way of the activists aiding the children of the villages."
The signatories included writers Haim Guri, David Grossman, Sami Michael, Amos Oz, Saed Kashua and Meir Shalev.
Professors Menachem Brinker, Yermiyahu Yovel and Avishai Margalit also put their names on the letter.
Actresses Gila Almagor and Hanna Meron and musician Ehud Banai also signed the letter, copies of which were sent to the defense, public security and education ministers as well as the chief of staff and police commissioner.
Also See: Artists urge PM to curb settler attacks on Palestinian children by Haaretz Daily