Qalqilya is located along the 1949 Green Line and less and 20K from the Mediterranean Sea. However, like most Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, its residents are denied access to the sea. It is an enclave or ghetto with over 44,000 residents, completely encircled by the separation barrier, disguised from the Israeli-side by a huge earth-bank, and in desperate economic circumstances. Unemployment runs at 60-70% and most families survive on foreign food aid. Closure means that men cannot work outside Qalqilya. Since 2002, in addition to curfews, economic stranglehold, and the change in landscape from the Ariel settlement bloc, thousands of hectares of prime farm and urban land have been confiscated and destroyed for construction of the separation wall and even more recently the creation of the seam zone between the Green Line and the separation barrier, in favour of new settlement expansion. The separation barrier that surrounds Qalqilya is slowly strangling the community, as there is no room to grow, as all cities must do to survive. The only entry and exit point - the checkpoint for Palestinian workers to move in and out of Israel - is tightly controlled by the Israeli military [see the photo below].
Qalqilya was the first town to vote Hamas into power during the local elections, which might explain (but not justify) Israel's heavy-handed treatment of the town. My guide told me that when he would often take a group of tourists to the top of a local school to get a better view of the separation barrier, and its impact on the town. He was informed by the Israeli military that if he continued to show people the view of the separation barrier from the school that they would destroy the school. This is an example of collective punishment of the whole community.
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