West Bank village remains defiant after Israeli crackdown

West Bank village remains defiant after Israeli crackdown
Residents of Qabatiya have pledged to continue resistance after Israel imposed a blockade and economic sanctions on the West Bank village.
4 min read
13 February, 2016
Hours after the Jerusalem attack Israeli soldiers blockaded Qabatiya [AFP]

Residents of the West Bank village of Qabatiya remain defiant, despite Israel imposing a four-day lockdown and economic sanctions.

Israel alleges that three residents killed a policewoman in a Jerusalem attack

Inhabitants of the hilltop village of 25,000 have pledged to keep up their long history of struggle against foreign masters, come what may.

"Here we have resisted every occupation," said mayor Mahmoud Kamel, citing centuries of Ottoman imperial rule, followed by nearly 30 years of British control and Israel's capture of the territory from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War.

He was speaking during condolence visits by Palestinian officials to the families of nine young villagers killed since October.

Among the latest to die were three young men from some of Qabatiya's largest families.

They were killed by police in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem on February 3 after allegedly shooting dead a policewoman and stabbing and wounding another female officer outside the Old City's Damascus Gate.

Among the dead Palestinian was Ahmed Zakarneh, also 19.

To his tearful big sister Nisrine he had "a beloved (girlfriend), a job and a family he adored, and he left them to defend the Palestinian cause".

In the family home, his mother, surrounded by her 10 surviving children and asking to be identified as "the mother of the martyr", spoke of his "dignity".

Hours after the Jerusalem attack Israeli soldiers clamped a blockade on Qabatiya during a security sweep of the area.

Everyone 'in solidarity'

The next day they came to take measurements of the family home in preparation for demolishing it in reprisal.

During the four-day closure of the village, troops arrested 10 relatives and acquaintances of the three attackers.

During the four-day closure of the village, troops arrested 10 relatives and acquaintances of the three attackers, but villagers say they remain undaunted.

"Our homes are no more precious than our children," Zakarneh's mother said.

"The more they destroy, the more we shall rebuild."

In the streets of Qabatiya posters praising the attack in which Ahmed Zakarneh died have joined others, some now faded, of past "martyrs" going back to the first intifada, or uprising, which erupted in 1987.

"All the neighbours and all the villagers are in solidarity with us," his mother said.

Several of the attacks carried out by the young men of Qabatiya have taken place at the nearest point of contact with Israeli troops, the Jalameh checkpoint between the northern West Bank and the Jewish state.

That is where Mohammed Nazzal, 37, crossed into Israel every morning to work, holding an Israeli entry permit.

Since the Damascus Gate attack he and other villagers have been cut off from their livelihoods.

"We arrived at the checkpoint and the soldiers turned back those who had an address in Qabatiya on their papers," he said.

Now stuck at home, he does not know when he will be able to provide for his seven dependants again.

"Nobody told us if this was temporary or whether our permits are cancelled altogether," he said.

Stick versus carrot

The chamber of commerce in Jenin, the nearest large town, says the sanction affects at least 300 businessmen and traders, 200 farmers and 500 other workers.

"Out of the blue the income I provided for my family has vanished," said Nazzal, who earned a better wage in Israel than he could get locally, where most jobs are in agriculture or quarries.

Since the current round of bloodshed erupted, 166 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces.

Since the current round of bloodshed erupted, 166 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. Most were carrying out attacks but others died during clashes and demonstrations.

The violence has claimed the lives of 26 Israelis, as well as an American, a Sudanese and an Eritrean.

Young Palestinians say they are disillusioned by political parties and are using attacks and protests to express their anger and frustration at the occupation.

Seeking to stem the violence, Israeli politicians and military authorities are divided between those who demand harsher sanctions and those who advocate raising the number of work permits and encouraging trade links to fuel Palestinian economic development.

Further restrictions on freedom of movement will not ease tensions, Palestinians say.

During last summer's Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Zakarneh's mother said she and her son had wanted to pray at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, one of Islam's most revered sites, but he was stopped at an Israeli checkpoint on the way to the city.

"I passed through but he was turned back," she said.

Eight months later, Ahmed Zakarneh and his two friends slipped into Jerusalem and killed an Israeli policewoman.