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RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) _ Wearing freshly pressed uniforms, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children and teachers braved roadblocks and closures Saturday to get to class on the first day of the new school year.

Students from Ramallah slipped into east Jerusalem using side roads while teachers trekked over West Bank hills, using tracks and dirt roads, to avoid Israeli army checkpoints.

The new academic year began amid severe Israeli restrictions imposed in the Palestinian territories after a spate of suicide bombings in Israel. The Palestinian education system has taken heavy blows since fighting broke out two years ago, and officials say keeping the schools open and getting youngsters to class is key to their recovery.

For those who complied with the Israeli restrictions, the waiting could last for hours. One teacher, Aida Abu-Draa, 35, fainted after waiting for three hours at a roadblock outside the West Bank city of Nablus, and was taken to a hospital. Ibrahim Taher, 42, a school secretary, said he waited at a checkpoint for half the day.

``I am sick of this. If it's not the curfew, it's the roadblocks that harm our life,'' said ninth-grader Shireen Abdo, as she waited in line for an Israeli soldier to search her school bag.

In most Palestinian towns, the Israeli army lifted the curfew. In Jenin, however, 15,000 students had to stay at home. The army said violence in the town on Friday made it necessary to maintain the curfew.

Also under curfew was an Israeli-controlled section of Hebron where Jewish settlers live. There was no official figure on the number of children affected there, but 28 Palestinian schools with at least 10,000 students were closed.

More than a third of the 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are children, according to the Palestinian statistics bureau. Many schools operate two shifts _ one in the morning and one in the afternoon _ to cope with the numbers.

The double shifts require a lifting of the curfew for much of the day if children are to attend school. During the current Mideast crisis, hundreds of Palestinians have been confined to their homes _ often for days at a time _ because of curfews.

In the last school year, 216 Palestinian students have been killed and 2,514 injured in clashes with the Israeli army, according to the Palestinian education ministry.

The blockades and curfews have also played havoc with the Palestinian economy, swelling unemployment to more than 50 percent.

A cartoon in the Palestinian newspaper Al Ayyam shows a teacher standing in front of a class of children with bandages on their heads. On the blackboard are the words, ``First Lesson: To Hell with the occupation.''

At Ramallah Secondary School for Girls, students stood in lines as the Palestinian flag was hoisted and sang the Palestinian national anthem.

``We will not be discouraged,'' said Samia Alwan, a 12th grader. ``We are committed to study for our future and our homeland.''