USi editor Tim Lezard reports from the West Bank
He sounds like a comedy character from a Louis de Berniere novel: the man who enters his house by his back window.
But for him – and his neighbours – it’s no laughing matter: they are not allowed to access their homes via the front door because Israeli settlers have taken over the street.
Some 400 settlers descended on the West Bank city of Hebron (pop 63,000) after the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinian worshippers at the historic Ibrahimi Mosque.
Guarded by 3,000 members of the Israeli Defence Force, their presence is seen as provocative by Palestinians, for whom parts of their home city, including the centre and, at times, the mosque, have become no-go zones.
Children face long walks to get to school after their usual routes were blocked off, where Palestinians are allowed to go depends on the whim of an Israeli guard at a checkpoint.
Hebron’s underground market is covered with nets and sheets to protect Palestinians from urine, spit and rubbish thrown by settlers above. The city’s commercial centre – once described as Hebron’s Oxford Street – is like a ghost town, with more soldiers than shoppers.
There was recently a three-month curfew, when residents were only allowed out of their homes for two hours a week to get food. This is an occupation.
But this control is not sufficient for Israel, which plans to demolish 95 Palestinian homes to create a security buffer zone to protect settlers.
As one man told me: “With 400 settlers, Israel has taken over our city.” Or as Louis de Bernieres might have said: “The city where Palestinians have no life.”
- USi editor Tim Lezard has recently returned from Palestine, where he was part of a delegation organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. USi is publishing exclusive extracts from his report in advance of its publication on September 14th. The report is funded by ASLEF and TSSA.
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