IDF Shot Stun Grenades, Tear Gas Into Schoolyard, Palestinians Say

According to an Israeli military official, that day an incendiary device had been thrown at a patrol vehicle on the outskirts of Burin, near the school.

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Israeli troops shot stun grenades and tear gas into a school yard in the village of Burin near Nablus two months ago, according to eyewitnesses and parents of children at the school.

According to an Israeli military official, that day an incendiary device had been thrown at a patrol vehicle on the outskirts of Burin, near the school.

According to several Israeli officers, stones as well as incendiary devices are often thrown from the school. But the Israel Defense Forces did not respond to queries for details linking such actions and children at the school.

Witnesses say that before classes started on a Sunday, IDF jeeps stopped outside while the students were in the yard. Without any clear reason, soldiers got out of the jeeps and threw a stun grenade into the yard. They followed this up with tear gas and more stun grenades, witnesses say.

Some of the children - from grades 1 through 12 - and teachers had difficulty breathing because of the fumes, and the smaller children were frightened by the noise, witnesses say.

"The children were running every which way," said Mohammed Yihya Mustafa, who lives near the school. "I saw the soldiers fire the tear gas and the stun grenades while the children were standing in front of the building."

Mustafa told Haaretz he had not seen the children do anything that would justify the soldiers' actions.

Hader Najar says two boys of his studying at the school were hurt by the tear gas. "Everyone who was there says the children didn't do anything; they didn't throw stones or anything else," he said.

Najar says the incident was "a real trauma" for the children, especially the younger ones. "A child can't tell the difference between a stun grenade and live fire," he said. "My younger son said the children thought the soldiers had come to the school to shoot them. He was so frightened he urinated in his pants."

Parents said the military's presence at the school wasn't unusual. Shukri Zaban, who has two boys there, said a military vehicle stops outside the school occasionally when the children are getting out, "and just makes noise."

But the incident two months ago was unusual. Now, his two boys, ages 9 and 13, don't want to go to school. "They're afraid every day they go to school that they might not come back, or they'll get hurt," Zaban said.

A military official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record said that on the morning in question an incendiary device had been thrown at an IDF patrol vehicle on the outskirts of Burin, near the school.

"The patrol chased the person who threw the device, using crowd-dispersal methods," the official said. "Claims of the use of crowd-dispersal methods within the area of the school are not known." According to the IDF's rules of engagement, such methods - tear gas grenades and stun grenades - can be used only on orders of a company commander.

The IDF Spokesman's Office did not respond to a Haaretz query on whether such approval had been given before the incident at the school. The school principal, an employee of the Palestinian Authority, filed a complaint with the Palestinian Education Ministry and apparently also with the Palestinian side of the coordination and liaison headquarters.

About a month after the incident, the human rights group Yesh Din demanded that the Military Police investigate the matter. Only after that did the army probe whether troops had fired tear gas into the school yard or whether the tear gas had been fired nearby, as the IDF version of events has it.

In response to the version of the military official who spoke with Haaretz, Yesh Din legal adviser Emily Schaeffer said the students and teachers said the tear gas was fired into the yard and the fumes went in through the windows.

"The incident is known to the Military Police, is under investigation and will also be examined by the military advocate general," the IDF Spokesman's Office said.

Two of the students who witnessed the event, at their school this week.

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