Israel rebuked for disrupting schools

The United Nations Children's Fund accused the Israeli army yesterday of preventing 170,000 Palestinian children from going to school, in breach of the Geneva conventions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Pierre Poupard, Unicef's special representative in the occupied territories, said: "A generation of Palestinian children is being denied their right to an education."

Unicef's statement came a month into the Palestinian school year. During that time, the populations of most West Bank cities have been placed under 24-hour curfew for seven days a week. Israeli troops have opened fire on those breaking the curfew, including children.

Children from villages not under curfew have been unable to travel to school because of closures enforced around towns by the army. Many children have been prevented from sitting exams.

The figures published by Unicef yesterday were stark: almost 170,000 Palestinian children and 6,650 teachers have been unable to reach their regular classrooms. At least 580 schools have been closed because of the curfews and military closures.

Many children are gathering for lessons in mosques, basements or alleyways their parents believe they can reach safely. Others are being schooled by their parents at home. One Palestinian radio station has begun broadcasting lessons.