Hebron is the largest city in what is known as the ‘West Bank’, one of two discontiguous zones between which ethnic Palestinians are geographically divided. 1.8 million Palestinians live in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, whilst 2.1 million live in the West Bank, where political tensions have been running high since 1967 because of the continued construction of Israeli settlements. In November of that year, the UN Security Council passed a resolution for all settlements in the West Bank to be dismantled, but this resolution has yet to be implemented. There are currently over 500,000 Israeli citizens living in what is, strictly speaking, Palestinian territory.
Hebron is the only city in which settlements have actually been built inside an existing Palestinian city, rather than simply as part of an Israelis-only village or town. Settlers in Hebron are defended from Palestinian locals by soldiers from the Israeli Defence Forces, heavily present throughout the city. There are four times as many Israeli soldiers as Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
On June 12th of this year, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped near Hebron, and in the following eleven days, Israel launched Operation Brother’s Keeper in the hope of a rescue,an operation in which the IDF arrested 350 Palestinians, killing five. On June 30th, the bodies of the Israeli teenagers were recovered. The Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, accused Hamas officials in Gaza of ordering the murders and vowed that Israel would take a “tough response”.
Mahmoud Khan and Ahmed Khalek are two twenty year olds both living in Hebron. After the June kidnappings, violent clashes began to erupt in the city, and fighting between IDF forces and the local population broke out on a daily basis. This intensified after the Israeli invasion of Gaza. We spoke to Mahmoud and Ahmed to find out about student life in such a deadly city.
On June 12th, the checkpoints were closed, and only reopened last month. For Mahmoud, it’s been a bad summer. “I couldn’t get out [of the West Bank]. They’ve closed the borders. From June, up until now, nobody was allowed out of Palestine.” Continue reading