Bank of West As the Gaza War intensifies, Palestinians are subjected to more limitations and settler violence 2023Bank of West As the Gaza War intensifies, Palestinians are subjected to more limitations and settler violence 2023

Bank of West As the Gaza War intensifies, Palestinians are subjected to more limitations and settler violence 2023

Joseph Handal wakes up at 4:30 a.m. in order to arrive at work by 9 a.m., despite the fact that his place of employment—a Franciscan church in Jerusalem’s Old City—is just a short distance from his Bethlehem home.

Bank of West As the Gaza War intensifies, Palestinians are subjected to more limitations and settler violence 2023
Bank of West As the Gaza War intensifies, Palestinians are subjected to more limitations and settler violence 2023

By road, the trip should take twenty-five minutes. Yet the West Bank is still occupied here. Here, nothing is ever easy.

“We wait and watch to see if the bus arrives. Should it fail to arrive, the checkpoint will be closed. It is closed at the moment. It might open later, though. Or perhaps it won’t,” Handal said to CNN while he and several other workers were standing by the side of the road.

Handal requires a permit in order to enter Jerusalem as a West Bank-based Palestinian resident. He does have one, but getting through at least two Israeli checkpoints will determine whether or not he can make it to work.

He claims this process has turned into a nightmare because Israel is at war.

Bank of West As the Gaza War intensifies, Palestinians are subjected to more limitations and settler violence 2023
Bank of West As the Gaza War intensifies, Palestinians are subjected to more limitations and settler violence 2023

Following the terror attack by Hamas on October 7 Gaza war, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,400 people and the kidnapping of approximately 240 others, Israel tightened security protocols and started to significantly limit the freedom of movement for Palestinian residents residing in the West Bank.

CNN has not heard back from Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) regarding the tightened restrictions.

With the help of armed police and soldiers stationed at checkpoints and roadblocks, Israel maintains control over all points of entry and exit into the West Bank. Although the security forces have always had the authority to abruptly close these checkpoints, locals and human rights advocates claim that since October 7, the closures have happened more frequently and for longer periods of time.

This means daily uncertainty for Handal and the tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank who must travel to Jerusalem for work, school, medical appointments, or family visits.

Mohammad Jamil, an Arabic teacher from a village close to Hebron, said, “It puts you in a position where you can’t even tell someone I’ll meet you tomorrow,’ because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Jamil said to CNN The so-called Tunnels Checkpoint near Bethlehem was closed for the past two weeks, which meant that his son Ibrahim had missed two days of school. Ibrahim, a Jerusalem elementary school student, said it didn’t bother him. He laughed as he said, “School is boring.”

But while Ibrahim may feel relieved when he doesn’t go to school, his father is becoming increasingly frustrated every day.

“This place has no future. No answer,” he uttered.

Ibrahim is an Israeli citizen who resides in Jerusalem with his mother. However, because he is a West Bank-born Palestinian, Jamil is unable to visit Ibrahim as frequently as he would like. He has a family visitation permit that allows him to visit Ibrahim in Jerusalem, but he can only travel there for five days every three months. He lives and works in the West Bank.

Jamil claims that since the start of the war, the arrangement between Ibrahim and him has grown significantly more complex. Instead, Ibrahim stays with him two days a week in the West Bank.

People who must travel for work must be more adaptable and always allow plenty of time to spare because new restrictions on movement may be implemented abruptly and without notice.

We’re accustomed to this. We are occupied,” Handal remarked. Handal finds the convoluted commute—which occasionally entails lengthy lines, unannounced checkpoint closures, and questioning by Israeli security forces—to be well worth it. In Israel and Jerusalem, the average daily wage is more than twice as high as in the West Bank, according to the International Labour Organization.

Since taking control of the region from Jordanian military occupation in 1967, Israel has maintained occupation of the West Bank. The Oslo Accords peace agreements of the early 1990s partitioned the West Bank into three zones, A, B, and C.

Area C is one continuous area under complete Israeli control that makes up about 60% of the West Bank. While Area A is entirely under Palestinian authority, Area B is jointly governed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. About 20% of the West Bank is made up of each.

Because the towns and villages in areas B and A are frequently cut off from one another, Palestinians who want to travel between them might have to travel through regions that Israel fully controls.

This may turn out to be challenging or even impossible.

For a minimum of one month, an Israeli checkpoint situated on the road connecting Handal’s Bethlehem neighborhood with the main road outside the city has been inaccessible to vehicles. He has to drive to the checkpoint or hail a cab to get out of it, walk through the security gate, and then get into another car to finish his trip.

Israel was supposed to give the Palestinian Authority gradual control over the West Bank as part of the Oslo Accords, but that hasn’t happened. Rather, a large number of Israeli settlements have been constructed in the West Bank, encroaching on land that both the international community and the Palestinians believe should be part of a future Palestinian state.

According to Peace Now, an Israeli organization that promotes peace and keeps an eye on settlements, there are currently about 500,000 Israeli Jewish settlers living in the West Bank. Numerous of these settlements are completely off-limits to Palestinians and are enclosed, heavily guarded areas.

The majority of the world views these settlements as illegal under international law, and Israel has come under fire for permitting their growth and, in certain cases, providing them with state-funded security and tax breaks. Israel maintains that its settlement policy is lawful and considers the West Bank to be “disputed territory.”

Although there has always been a risk of violence in the vicinity of these settlements, things have gotten worse recently.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah reports that since October 7, over 170 Palestinians have died in the West Bank. According to UN estimates, that is more than Israeli forces killed in all of 2022.

The majority perished during IDF raids and battles with security forces. Some of them were militants from Hamas and Jihad, while others got into fights, according to the IDF.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that settlers have killed at least eight Palestinians.

International outrage over the escalating violence has been voiced by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk among others.

“I humbly request that Israeli authorities act immediately to guarantee the safety of Palestinians in the West Bank who are regularly the targets of violence from Israeli soldiers and settlers, maltreatment, detentions, expulsions, threats, and humiliation,” Turk stated.

The UN reports that since October 7, settlers have forcibly removed almost 1,000 Palestinians from at least 15 herding communities.

Turk stated: “Continued, widespread impunity for such violations is unacceptable, dangerous, and it is in clear violation of Israel’s obligation under international human rights law.” “The displacement of these communities may amount to the forcible transfer of the population, which is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” Turk said, referring to the coercive environment in which they live.

In a joint letter released last month, thirty Israeli human rights and civil society organizations claimed that the settlers had been “elevating their campaign of violent attacks in an attempt to forcibly transfer Palestinian communities by taking advantage of the general atmosphere of rage against Palestinians, as well as the lack of public attention to the West Bank.”

US President Joe Biden commented on the matter as well. Even though Biden was a fervent supporter of Israel and its military response to Hamas attacks, he denounced the attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank by “extremist settlers” from Israel.

The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement on Wednesday regarding the violence committed by settlers, stating: “There is a small group of individuals who act on behalf of the public and who violate the law.” We’re not ready to put up with this. We’re not ready to let this go. We’ll take all necessary measures to stop them.

Simultaneously, Palestinian factions have persistently engaged in violent clashes with Israeli law enforcement at checkpoints and other sensitive locations, frequently hurling stones and starting fires.

Many West Bank residents are being forced to stay at home due to the increased violence. According to Handal, in the first two weeks of the war, he had hardly left his house.

Jamil said that because settlers have occasionally visited the area and thrown rocks at passing cars, he always drives his son around and makes sure he boards the school bus safely.

Handal made it to work on Monday after several arduous hours of waiting, asking friends for updates, and wondering what would happen.

He discovered a workaround, even though the bus never showed up. “My friend from Jerusalem brought me along with him. Upon requesting my ID and permit at the border, they allowed me entry. By chance, I made it,” he remarked.

He claimed he couldn’t afford to take a day off because he was paid by the hour and had two small children at home.

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