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Israeli siege brings life to a halt in the southern West Bank

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Days away from the Eid holiday Shafooq Baloot, 25, does not know how or when she will do her annual clothes shopping. “We can’t go everywhere whenever we would like,” the English teacher told me. She lives in town of Bani Na’im which is one of many towns across the West Bank that has been under Israeli closure for nearly a week.

The Israeli army shut the main entrance to her town with cement blocks and an earth mound after a teen from her town killed a 13-year old Israeli in a nearby settlement last Thursday.

“Sure the stores have stuff here, but in Hebron it’s cheaper,” said Baloot. She hoped to buy a new wardrobe during the seasonal sales that accompany the Muslim religious month of Ramadan.

Over the weekend Israeli forces barricaded at least 20 more villages in the Hebron area, along with the southern entrance to the city of Hebron itself — a rare move generally reserved for manhunts.

Life under siege is boring for Baloot. In the afternoon she walked to a curtain shop next door to her house. An oversized picture of Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan hung behind the cash register, a gift from one of the Turkish suppliers. “Erdogen is very popular here,” said Baloot, who referenced the aid the country sends to the Gaza Strip.

A few rusty cars drove by, “we want to know if they [the Israeli army] are going to open the village,” said a man circling the edge of Bani Na’im every ten minutes.

It was an odd scene for a village closed by the military, in that no Israeli forces were present. Typically such limitations are enforced by a militarized presence. Yet in this scenario, no soldiers, no army Jeeps, no border police were in sight.

There is a back dirt road where drivers can motor in and out of Bani Na’im, one of many pathways to the dozens of besieged villages still open despite road blocks at their main entry. In Baloot’s case the journey takes an extra ten minutes. But she does not own a car. In any event, most of the taxis and bus lines suspended service. Baloot is marooned inside of her own hometown, she said.

Roadblock leading into Bani Na'im in the southern West Bank outside of Hebron. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Roadblock leading into Bani Na’im in the southern West Bank outside of Hebron. (Photo: Allison Deger)

The siege — which stretches over a wide swath of the southern West Bank — was enacted last week after a Palestinian from Bani Na’im, Mohammed Tarayra, 17, entered the home of Hallel Ariel, 13, in the settlement of Kiryat Arba and stabbed her to death as she slept in her bed. The day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the site of the attack. He spoke about the blood he saw in her bedroom, her toys and avowed to cancel work permits for Tarayra’s relatives.

More Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement are expected in the coming weeks. On Sunday Netanyahu told his security cabinet further “measures that we have not used in the past” were under review for the West Bank.

“This includes cordoning off the entire Hebron district, 700,000 people; revoking work permits from Bani Naim, the village six terrorists have come from; a massive reinforcement of our units, two brigades with emphasis on securing the roads; automatically investigating all family members of murderers and terrorists and their arrest as per their involvement,” Netanyahu said.

Since attacks and protests began in Jerusalem last October, Israeli forces have killed at least 190 Palestinians and Palestinians have killed more than 35 Israelis. Although things have quieted across the West Bank for the most part, tensions remain high in Hebron.

Stuck in traffic at an Israeli checkpoint.(Photo: Allison Deger)

Stuck in traffic at an Israeli checkpoint.(Photo: Allison Deger)

Outside of Hebron in a stretch of highway that runs north-south through the occupied Palestinian territory, flying checkpoints manned by Israeli military and traffic police stop every car. Drivers are ask to present their IDs. License plates and the owners’ names are crossed referenced, along with logging the movements of each individual vehicle.

But in the outlying villages traffic is at a halt. Dozens of pedestrians that would otherwise take buses walk to their homes from the highway.

Inside of Hebron, few cars pass by a usually busy shopping district.

“When any event happens, this area is closed,” said Talal Idees, 55, an owner of street-side fruit stall. He sells locally grown peaches and lemons, and mangos and grapes imported from Israel.

“Today we have no one,” Idees said, “Half of the customers aren’t here. Today is Saturday. We used to have people from the north like Nazareth or Haifa, but today they are not here.”


Sparse crowd at street-side fruit stall. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Ahamd Abu Ummar, 22, was taking a nap in his souvenir shop, the Golden Bazaar. In the morning he received one tour bus of 30 visitors from Turkey. The bulk of his sales are usually from Palestinian tourists who are Israeli citizens. They buy traditional home furnishings and bottles of olive oil that run half the price as those sold inside of Israel.

“Because we work with tourists, anything that happens affects us,” he said. “They cycle is repeating itself: clashes, tensions, then calms and then it all repeats.”

Abu Ummar planned to attend evening prayers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in central Hebron, but the specter of confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli forces kept him away. Over the weekend Israeli soldiers killed a pregnant woman, Sara Daoud Ata Tarayra, 27, near the religious site.

“The ambiance in Hebron during Ramadan is usually very good. There are a lot of activities and celebrations,” said Abu Ummar. “The people are more lovely than in other times of the years—I’m not talking about the security situation—just the people.”

Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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8 Responses

  1. Kay24 on July 5, 2016, 11:52 am

    Isn’t this what the evil empire wanted anyway – to slowly but cruelly cut off the vein that gives nourishment to the Palestinian people, so that they will suffer and disappear or die, and the evil empire can expand like a cancerous tumor?

    We in the US keep feeding this monster that makes helpless people live under inhumane conditions. Sad.

    • inbound39 on July 5, 2016, 8:33 pm

      Unfortunately Kay24 it seems the situation is set to continue with the Zionist employee Clinton set to continue the wishes of the Israeli Government. It really is bewildering how Americans sit and do nothing about the undermining of their government and do nothing about the damaging effects Israel’s actions have on the Status and Integrity of America globally. Americas continued support of Israel is what keeps the Occupation going and Americas complicity in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the blatant open public murdering of Palestinians is becoming more sickening than at any other time in history. It beggars belief how any civilized human being could support Israel…….and yet……like Nightmare on Elm Street……the ghastly picture continues.

      • Kay24 on July 5, 2016, 10:00 pm

        I totally agree. It is depressing that Americans have been brainwashed into thinking they are feeding the side that is the victim. It reminds me of science fiction movies where aliens control and brainwash the Earth into thinking the aliens are the good guys, while they are in reality the evil and dangerous entity.

      • RoHa on July 5, 2016, 11:05 pm

        Kay, comparing Jews with evil aliens is another anti-Semitic trope!* You are just peddling Jew-hatred.

        There, yonah and hophmi. Saved you the trouble.

        (*Or sub-trope, here in sub-tropical Brisbane.)

  2. Bubba on July 5, 2016, 11:59 pm

    Allison — Thanks for bringing the feel of the land and people to us. The cloudless blue sky, the arid desert landscape, the boredom of imposed isolation and the dry baked heat of the long day.

    On a good day it is quiet, but since the cut-off it is even quieter. The soldiers and police are not even present, just the evidence that they were there and the specter of their impending return.

    And, beneath this land lies the raging force that lead a seventeen year old child to enter a settlement, a home and finally, the bedroom of a thirteen year old sleeping child. In the middle of the night he cut her to death causing her to bleed out. Then he pays the price for his deed with his life.

    The explosion of war may come soon. From the cycling referenced by Ahamd Abu Ummar will come the total break in the residual of norms.

    • annie on July 6, 2016, 1:19 am

      And, beneath this land lies the raging force that lead a seventeen year old child…

      actually, the occupation is above ground — it’s everywhere. that’s the ugly oppressive racist raging force that incite this madness.

  3. Bubba on July 6, 2016, 2:13 pm

    The oppression informs the drive to throw off the shackles. That drive for independence or self rule or just dignity, is what has been stomped into the ground until it rages. Nonetheless, murder is still murder. Just because one’s hands are dirty does not justify the dirt of another. Madness begets madness, it does not justifies it.

  4. jackal on July 9, 2016, 2:43 pm

    Ignoring the events of the Middle East by Americans can be somewhat justified by the lack of their media not keeping them abreast of what is happening there. They are ignoring the whole of Africa as well, where death is even more commonplace. The Americans are having their own problems, as well, with the near weekly massacres of either black or whites. If a country can’t settle its own problems they can hardly be blamed for ignoring what is happening in other parts of the world. Having said that, however, much of the blame in Israel/Palestine can be put on the heads of American government and military as well as those people responsible for not dealing with gun control in their own country. But, in a way, it is also the responsibility of other European and Anglo countries to take the US to task whenever it condones Israel Zionist activities that play to the detriment of the politically and economically impoverished Palestinians. Even though I’m not an American (god forbid!), I support people like Jonathan Cook, Alison Weir, and groups like JVP in the States — hoping beyond hope that they can convince lobby groups like AIPAC just how wrong they are.

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