West Bank fragmented by occupation

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The Independent Online

The Israeli pressure on Palestinian cities, towns and villages on the West Bank is now so heavy that their inhabitants doubt their own ability to survive. The 540 Israeli checkpoints and barriers so fragment this small piece of territory that they are destroying the Palestinian economy.

Nablus, once the heart of the West Bank, is like a ghost town. Ten years ago this was a bustling commercial centre but today there are few cars in the streets and half of the shops have closed.

"Every day I get up at 6.30am and then wait three hours at the Israeli checkpoint before I can go to Awarta village 10km from Nablus where I teach in a school," said Iman Iskander. "Often I am so late that I miss the first three classes. It is hell. By the time I get home I am so tired and angry that sometimes I want to hit my children."

For the past seven months she, in common with other Palestinian teachers, has not been paid her $500 (£266) a month salary. The Palestinian government has no money to pay the teachers because the Israeli government is withholding tax revenue and foreign donors have held back funds since Palestinians voted for Hamas as their government.

Palestinian society, under attack from every direction, is finally crumbling in the West Bank. New roads linking Israeli settlements do not even have signs. And the settlements continue to grow. Israel announced 690 homes are to be built in two Jewish settlements on the West Bank where 2.4 million Palestinians and 240,000 settlers live.

Israel's justification for the wall slicing through the West Bank and restriction on the movement of Palestinians was to stop suicide bombers and armed attacks. But in reality the West Bank has been reoccupied. The Jordan Valley has been effectively annexed. In Nablus, Isam Abu Baqr, the head of the Fatah movement, says that the Israelis "have 100 per cent control of the West Bank. We are in a tragic situation".

Fatah in Nablus sound more concerned with fighting Hamas than in resisting the Israelis. State schools have almost all closed because of a Fatah-backed strike by teachers demanding their pay. The Hamas government cannot meet the teachers' demands since it has no money. "What is the point of putting pressure on a bankrupt government?" asked Abdul Rahman Imran.

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