Dozens of Palestinians protested on Hebron’s Shuhada Street Sunday morning after Israeli forces maintained a closure of a city center checkpoint for the ninth day, disrupting life and commerce in the southern West Bank city.
Residents say that because of the closure, they have been forced to take a 3-4 kilometer route around the entire area, even though their homes and businesses are located only meters away.
Israeli forces have severely restricted Palestinian access to Shuhada Street since 1994, turning the heart of Hebron’s bustling Old City into a heavily militarized ghost town as part of what they say is an effort to provide security to around 500 Jewish settlers who have taken over homes and evicted residents in the area.
Despite the closure of the street itself, however, Palestinians have to cross the area to move around central Hebron, and the checkpoint closure has caused severe disruptions.
The checkpoint was initially closed after a a Molotov cocktail was hurled at it, but a local told Ma’an that the damage had since been repaired and concrete barriers added, as well a new watchtower added overlooking nearby Beersheba street.
“The Israeli occupation is seeking to force Palestinian residents to leave their homes in Shuhada Street so that settlers can easily lay hold of the area,” an activist from Hebron’s Coalition of Youth Against Settlements told Ma’an.
Despite the pressure from the occupation and settlers in Shuhada Street and nearby Tel Rumeida neighborhood, he said, the Palestinian population is adamant on staying in their homes and will never leave them to settlers.
An activist from Hebron’s Coalition of Human Rights Defenders told Ma’an that after earlier preventing them, Israeli forces allowed students at the Qurtuba School — which is surrounded by an Israeli settlement — to cross the checkpoint, despite the closure.
In addition, the activist said elderly people above the age of 70 were allowed to cross the checkpoint as well.
Although Shuhada Street is normally closed to most Palestinians, Jewish settlers are allowed to walk through the area.
The street is divided by concrete blocks to separate them from the few Palestinians who are allowed to walk on the road after proving at the checkpoint that the only access to their homes is from the street.
Many residents are forced to enter their homes through windows from adjacent streets, however, as the road is frequently closed even to them during Jewish holidays or because of protests.
(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)