Israeli closures in Huwwara stifle Palestinian businesses and movement
The Israeli army continued to enforce a closure across Huwwara in the northern occupied West Bank on Monday in what Palestinians described as collective punishment.
Roads into and out of Nablus and Huwwara were blocked and shops in the flashpoint town were ordered to close until further notice.
The closure was implemented late on Saturday after a drive-by shooting by Palestinians wounded two Israeli soldiers.
‘When the soldiers came to close our shops, they didn’t let us save the goods or even cover them, otherwise they would break the glass and he would shoot him’
– Mazen al-Aker, sweet shop owner
Business owners say they were hit the hardest.
“When the soldiers came to close our shops, they didn’t let us save the goods or even cover them, otherwise they would break the glass and shoot it,” Mazen al-Aker, a sweet shop owner, told Middle East Eye.
This Ramadan closure is the worst the town has seen in recent years, according to al-Aker.
Some shop owners on Sunday tried to reopen for business against the Israeli measures but the army dispersed them using tear gas and stun grenades.
Videos published on local media showed dozens of Palestinians heading to Huwwara stuck in long queues at Israeli checkpoints in the evening, forcing many to break their Ramadan fast in their vehicles.
Meanwhile, Israeli settlers stormed the town on Sunday in protests against the Palestinian shooting.
The crowds were joined by Yossi Dagan, head of the settlements council in the northern West Bank, and far-right Israeli MP Zvi Sukkot.
Dagan set up a makeshift office on the main road to protest what he called “the failure of the Israeli army to protect the settlers”.
Saturday’s shooting was the third targeting Israelis in less than a month in Huwwara, which lies on the West Bank’s main north-south route Route 60 used by settlers.
After each incident, the army places the town under tight restrictions.
Ghaleb Odeh, a fast food restaurant owner, said that his shops were closed by the Israeli army for 12 days in March alone.
“The day before yesterday I prepared 200-300 kilograms of meat and chicken to sell, along with hundreds of boxes of different salads, but when the Israeli military decision to close the shops was issued, I had to destroy them, which which made me a lot of money. losses,” Odeh told MEE.
It is not just the settlers – or Israel – who are responsible for the Huwwara torch
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“For the first time in my life, I collected a debt of 80,000 [$22,437] a shekel to the butchers.”
According to Odeh, this is Huwwara’s “toughest” period since he opened his shop in 1995.
Even when the restaurant is open, he said the continuous attacks on settlers in the town leave the shops suffering a heavy loss as the movement of vehicles is almost completely paralyzed.
Huwwara has been the scene of repeated settler violence in recent months.
The town, strategically located in the middle of the villages south of Nablus, is home to 7,000 Palestinians and is surrounded by Israeli settlements.
Last month, it was at the center of an unprecedented Israeli settler rampage after hundreds of Israeli settlers, flanked by soldiers, attacked the town.
One Palestinian was killed and nearly 400 injured in the attacks.
Nearly 700,000 settlers live in more than 250 settlements and outposts across the West Bank and East Jerusalem in violation of international law.