Since the 29th of March this year the majority of Palestinian towns, cities and villages have come under sustained systematic attack from the Israeli army. The Palestinians living in these areas have been subjected to invasions, bombardment, and 24-hour total curfew as the Israeli army has decimated their lives and homes.
When Sharon announced that the army would withdraw from the newly re-occupied areas the civilian population gave a collective sigh of relief. However any relief was short-lived, as the army and tanks have merely been redeployed to surround the areas they had previously invaded. In addition to this, other cities are still being invaded, last night Hebron was invaded by Israeli tanks and soldiers.
In the case of Ramallah not only did the military not withdraw, whole neighbourhoods remain under curfew; approximately one third of the population of Al-Bireh and Ramallah are still unable to leave their houses.
Not only have Arafat and the foreigners and staff with him in the governerorate headquarters been unable to leave the compound or have food delivered to them, neither have the people living in the areas still under curfew.
Unable to work, go to school, and seek medical care or to buy food, thousands of Palestinians are around the clock prisoners in their own homes.
A humanitarian crisis is continuing in these areas, but as importantly are the areas that are not in the media spotlight — areas that since the beginning of the Israeli aggression in the West Bank have intermittently been under military curfew, but constantly surrounded by Israeli soldiers and tanks, cut off from the other areas of the West Bank. Villages in the region north and north east of Tulkaram such as Shwayka, Iktaba, Anabta, ‘Attil, Bal’a remain isolated, residents not permitted to leave the villages to get food, medical treatment, or other services. The situation is the same for those residents of towns east of Qalqiliya and around Nablus.
A resident of Anabta said that ‘while we are have not been under curfew for about a week, we are completely cut off and isolated. Tanks are positioned all around us, Apache helicopters circle overhead; last week they fired a missile at a car destroying it. We are totally encircled, imprisoned in our towns.’
Other towns such as Bayt Lid, Sir, Saffarin and Shofa are under curfew, as well as being isolated and cut off from the surrounding areas.
The people in these villages are being forgotten while all attention is focused on Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah — and meanwhile they are unable to work, not permitted to transport food to the villages, medical aid is prevented from reaching them, students are prevented from reaching schools, colleges and universities.
So whether it is an middle class neighbourhood of Ramallah or a small rural village in the shadow of an illegal Israeli settlement near Qalqiliya, the Israeli intention to isolate is the same. Social, economic and health systems are completely paralysed, and for the thousands of inhabitants of these villages and towns, the future looks to hold more of the same.