Constant friction with the Israeli army and settlers has transformed Hebron into the centre of Palestinian resistance.
For the last two weeks Palestinian and international activists have staged a sit-in at the entrance of Hebron's Shuhada Street to protest new policies implemented in the city that oblige residents of Shuhada Street and the nearby Tel Rumeida neighbourhood to register with Israeli military authorities. The protest began on January 7 when Wafa’ Sharabati, a 38 year old resident of Shuhada Street, was arrested at the local checkpoint due to a discrepancy with her ID. During the arrest she was harassed by Israeli forces, who claimed she was a ‘troublemaker’ and threatened to put a knife in her bag.
The checkpoint leads into the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood, which Israeli authorities declared a closed military zone on November 1, 2015. This closure forced all local residents to register and be assigned numbers in order to travel to their homes. Moreover, no visitors of any kind - family, friends, media or human rights defenders - have been allowed to enter the area.
Those measures allegedly come to protect a few hundred Israeli settlers living near Shuhada Street and in the Tel Rumeida area.
Settlements are the most immediate problem faced by Palestinians in the West Bank. This involves not only the associated land grab for settlement construction and expansion, or the provocative violence employed by settlers against their environment, but is further the institutionalizion of an effective system of apartheid that impact the life and well being of the area Palestinians.
In the city of Hebron and its immediate environment, a limited number of Israeli settlers living in the midst of the Palestinian population have managed to tear apart the life of more that 300 thousand people. At the same time, to south of the city, settlers exploit the geographic distance to create a space of lawlesness ruled by armed Israeli gangs that attack Palestinian farmers, students and solidarity activists.
There are 145 Palestinian communities in the Hebron governorate, with a total population of 600 hundred thousand people. However, there are also 23 Israeli settlements in the area with a population of 15,000 settlers. These settlers are protected by military camps in the area, are served by by-pass roads, and additional land is grabbed for Israel's Separation Wall. In total, Hebron-area residents have lost almost 20 percent of their land to Israel's colonial enterprise.
In the city of Hebron there are some 208,750 Palestinians and 500-800 Israeli settlers. An entire Israeli military brigade is stationed in Hebron.
Most Hebron residents in the city's H1 sector, ostensibly under full Palestinian military and civil control. The H2 sector, that includes Hebron's old city, is under Israeli military control. Israeli settlement and military pressures are, however, serving to push Palestinians out of the area.
In October 2015, Israel declared specific areas of Hebron's old city to constitute closed military zones. Palestinians living in the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood and along Shuhada Street must be registered with Israeli army to access their residences and navigate through the 18 military checkpoints Israel has set up in the city's centre.
Hebron and Jerusalem are the sole places in the territories Israel occupied during the 1967 Middle East War where Israeli settlers have moved into the midst of the Palestinian population.
Palestinians in Hebron are in daily contact with Israeli settlers and soldiers, thus living a life of unending friction with the ocupation. As a consequence, more than a third of the Palestinians who were killed in clashes with Israeli forces since October 2015 are from the Hebron area.
The current wave of unrest started in Hebron later than in the cities of Jerusalem, Nablus and Ramallah. Hebron and its surrounding area, however, quickly became the centre of an emerging uprising as the Israeli authorities lost hopes of pacifying it.
As unrest is the area worsens, Israeli security forces impose harsher military measures against local Palestinians.
In addition to the special military measures imposed on Hebron's old city, towns and villages sourounding the city are sealed off and people can not leave or enter. In addition, several thousand Palestinians who work in settlements to the south of the city have not been allowed to work this week following the Sunday killing of an Israeli settler from the Hebron-area settlement of Othniel.
It will take a long time to restore peace to the city as settlements and settler violence has led to the “privatization” of Palestinian resistance, whether it be military resistance or demonstrations. Palestinian political parties are not the ones calling for resistance actions, but it is Palestinian individuals themselves who act on their own accord.
Peace is possible only when the Israeli settlement enterprise is halted.