As the search for the three missing teenage settlers intensifies, the city of Hebron continues to experience complete lockdown. Checkpoints are set up across the district, barring any residents from leaving Hebron. These checkpoints are additional to the previous ones that have been in place for years. Generally checkpoints aren’t found in Area A (the 18% of the occupied West Bank that the Palestinian Authority has control over) but since the search for the three missing settlers has launched, checkpoints have been set up at the entrances to Area A in Hebron and other districts, as well as flying (temporary roadblock) checkpoints within Area A roads in the middle of Palestinian cities and towns.
Protests against the siege of the city have become frequent, and injuries and arrests are common. Hebron was the first city and district to feel the force of the army’s crackdown ten days ago, however other population areas throughout the occupied West Bank are now beginning to experience similar tactics. Currently over 350 Palestinians have been arrested in the West Bank and five Palestinians have been shot dead. Normal life in Hebron, which due to military occupation and the placement of an illegal Israeli settlement within the city center, has always been difficult, but this week life has become even more grim and problematic.
On Friday, Hebron’s city center erupted in clashes between the shabaab (young men), and Israeli Defense Force (IDF). While protests and clashes with the IDF are common in the West Bank, they usually occur in the small villages outlying larger cities, and seldom happen in the center of Palestinian cities. However now with soldiers frequently making trips into Hebron city center along with the thousands of soldiers being deployed throughout the whole district, the atmosphere is tense. Friday’s clash in the center of Hebron lasted for over four hours; a ten-year-old boy was arrested, along with a young man, while soldiers opened live fire on protestors.
Now raids on houses have become commonplace. In the village of al-Dura a few kilometers from Hebron, a 14 year-old-boy was killed by live ammunition to the chest during one of these night raids. With every day bringing uncertainty around Israel’s next move, it appears the only constant is knowing that the arrests, night raids, and the crackdown will most likely continue.
“The soldiers are now everywhere” Mohammed Rabah, who lives in Halhul in the Hebron district, said. “Last night they were occupying and sleeping in the masjid [mosque] and using it as a base. Every day they are throwing so much gas, raiding people’s homes and arresting people. Yesterday they broke into my cousin’s house and pointed their guns at her and her two year old daughter. I think this is not right, this not looking for the missing settlers, it is just trying to punish us.”