Located in the south of the occupied West Bank, Hebron is one of the largest Palestinian cities and the local economic capital. The governorate of Hebron has a population of 700,000 spread over a number of cities, towns and villages. The southern entrance to Hebron has now been closed by the Israeli occupation authorities for 13 years, even though it is one of the area's main arteries of daily life and economic activity. It is also the main road leading to Beersheva, which has been occupied by Israel since 1948.
Despite the end of Al-Aqsa Intifada (uprising), the start of which was used by Israel as an excuse to close the main street in the south of Hebron, the concrete blocks and Israeli patrols are still there.
Al-Fawar Palestinian refugee camp is just 3 km from Hebron. "Normally," said camp resident Mohammed Adwan, "we could reach the city in less than four minutes through the southern entrance, but since its closure 13 years ago we have to loop through Doura and approach the city from the south-west." That is a much greater distance, said Adwan, so traders have higher transportation costs. "The closure makes life difficult for us in every way," he added. The residents of towns and villages such as Yatta, Zahriya and Al-Samou' face similar problems.
For the people of Dura, this brings an added problem; heavy traffic. "All the vehicles and trucks now move through Dura to reach Hebron," Kamal Manora told the Palestinian Information Centre. "Some of the vehicles are loaded with many goods, and this has increased the traffic congestion." The main street that leads to Hebron through Dura is already narrow and in a very bad condition, he pointed out, and this increases the suffering.
Observers believe that the closure is actually one way by which the Israelis get the local population used to the lack of easy access to land which Tel Aviv wants to annex for the use of illegal settlements. This has already happened in Al-Magnona area, where Israel has demolished water sources used by local farmers on the grounds that the land "is under Israeli rule".
According to Abd El-Hadi Hantash, an expert in settlement affairs, "More than 300,000 citizens of Hebron are harmed directly by the closure; it affects more than 40 towns, villages and cities." He is convinced that the closure is a "settler-related move" by the Israelis, the likes of which have been used in a number of other parts of the occupied West Bank.
Source: Hebron / Al-Khalil: Palestinian Information Centre