RAMALLAH: The Israeli army’s blockade against 200,000 people in Nablus and surrounding villages in the occupied West Bank continued for an eighth day on Tuesday.
Several main arteries remain closed. Cement blocks have been used to block city entrances and random mobile checkpoints continue to disrupt residents’ lives, Palestinian sources told Arab News. The crackdown by the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet Internal Security Service, or the Israeli Border Police in Nablus, Jenin and other West Bank cities has not abated.
Dozens of people have been arrested and their light weapons confiscated while Israeli authorities search for members of the local military group Areen Al-Osood, accused of targeting Israeli forces and settlers. Its 150 fighters are not affiliated with traditional Palestinian organizations like Fatah or Hamas.
Israeli settlers in the region have significantly escalated attacks on Palestinian farmers, targeting villages and towns, closing crossroads, cutting down trees and destroying Palestinian vehicles.
Analysts are viewing the move against the backdrop of Israel’s upcoming November 1 parliamentary elections. Some have expressed concern that the attacks could escalate in the coming days as a form of collective punishment, since the brutal treatment of Palestinians can help politicians win votes among West Bank settlers, who number an estimated 700,000.
More than 120 Palestinians have been killed, dozens injured and hundreds arrested by the Israeli army in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the beginning of the year.
Taysir Nasrallah, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council in Nablus, told Arab News that the closure of the city, a commercial center and economic capital of the West Bank, has led to a complete paralysis of commercial activity in the city.
“All of the furniture stores and restaurants are suffering from a drop in shoppers due to the disruption of the business cycle in Nablus,” Nasrallah said.
“As an employee, I am not willing to wait four hours at an Israeli military checkpoint to reach my place of work in Ramallah. After passing through the checkpoint, I could face attacks from settlers scattered along the Nablus-Ramallah road.”
The siege at the height of the olive harvest season is also having a negative impact on farmers, he added.
The markets in Nablus are mainly frequented by people from the surrounding villages and towns. City residents are anticipating an Israeli military invasion as part of the crackdown on Areen Al-Osood. Israeli authorities this week canceled entry passes to Israel for 164 relatives of group members.
Yassin Dwaikat, a member of the Nablus Chamber of Commerce, told Arab News that the city’s financial losses in the first week of the siege ran into millions of dollars, adding that tourism, restaurants, hotels, resorts, parks, singles – and wholesale, health and education sectors were affected.
“We can’t calculate the exact amount of financial losses at this time, but they are estimated at millions of dollars, and the longer the siege lasts, the more casualties people are suffering,” he said.
Nablus was subjected to an Israeli economic siege between 2001 and 2007, which was lifted after international intervention.
The Palestinian National Initiative said the current siege by the occupying army constitutes an aggressive crime and collective punishment aimed at our people, endangering their lives and depriving them of a normal life. The blockade deprives students and schoolchildren of education and threatens the lives of patients, especially those with chronic diseases. It deprives farmers of access to their agricultural land, especially during the olive harvest.”
Meanwhile, Israel expressed anger at Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh’s visit to the Jenin camp on Sunday, where he offered his condolences to the families of people killed by Israeli forces and delivered a speech in which he accused the Israeli authorities of misrepresenting Palestinian blood Funds to be used for making November 1st election gains.
“From the sacrificial camp, Jenin camp, we say that the blood of martyrs will not be in vain…this struggle is a cumulative process, generation by generation, sacrifice by sacrifice,” Shtayyeh said in a message posted to Facebook.