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As Gaza War Drags on, Palestinians in the West Bank Have ‘Reached Rock Bottom’

As Gaza War Drags on, Palestinians in the West Bank Have ‘Reached Rock Bottom’

As the war in Gaza enters its eighth month, Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank continue to face onerous restrictions, economic difficulties and an increased military presence — changes that some worry may become the new normal.

Throughout the West Bank, daily life — restricted before Oct. 7 — has been further complicated by a myriad of factors. These include regular raids and arrests conducted by Israeli forces, emboldened settlers and regulations that have hampered the economy, such as the cancellation of permits to work in Israel and an increase in internal checkpoints and roadblocks, complicating movement throughout the territory.

The Israeli military said there has been a “significant increase” in terrorist attacks in the West Bank since the beginning of war, and told The New York Times that arrests of suspected “terrorist operatives,” as well as the strategic placement of security forces were necessary “to improve the safety of all residents of the sector.”

We spent time with two Palestinians in the West Bank to learn how they have been affected by these changes.

In Bethlehem, a city whose economy is largely dependent on tourism, few are arriving to visit sites like the Church of the Nativity, the supposed birthplace of Jesus.

Laith Al-Muti, 29, a local tour guide and taxi driver, spends his days waiting at the main checkpoint from Jerusalem into Bethlehem, hoping to attract local fares. Al-Muti and other drivers said they were making a fraction of what they earned before the war.

“I don’t know for how long people will have energy,” said Al-Muti. “I might be making 20 or 40 shekels, (roughly $5-$11) working in my taxi, but some people haven’t earned one shekel in seven months.”

Thirteen miles away in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron, widow Widjan Ziadeh, 56, and her sons live in fear.

Hebron is divided into two zones — H1, where security is controlled by the Palestinian Authority; and H2, where security is controlled by the Israeli military.

Tel Rumeida, located in H2, is surrounded by Israeli-run checkpoints. Since the war, Palestinians in the area said they have been subject to increased restrictions and difficulties.

The site of an Israeli settlement, some of the settlers in Tel Rumeida are violent and aggressive, according to Palestinians in the area, and tensions have run high for decades.

Ziadeh said her son Faris, 20, has nearly lost all vision in one of his eyes following a settler attack in 2022, but the family never filed a criminal complaint to Israeli authorities because of limited expectations of justice.

For now, Ziadeh is determined to stay and keep her house from being taken over by settlers.

“We won’t leave. This is our land and we’ll stay here,” she said. “We’ll live and die in suffering.”

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