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Life in Hebron Restricted for Palestinians After Friday Attack


The West Bank city of Hebron is again under complete Israeli control. Dozens of armored vehicles are in place in strategic locations throughout the city and Israeli soldiers have established roadblocks and checkpoints all through the town.

The reoccupation of Hebron follows an attack Friday night when Palestinian gunmen killed three settlers and nine soldiers in what the Israeli army describes as an elaborately planned ambush.

The city's Avraham Aveinu neighborhood is one of several enclaves where some 450 Jewish settlers live surrounded by more than 120,000 Palestinians. The Israeli military presence is everywhere.

An ancient narrow alley marks the entrance to the neighborhood. It is blocked by an Israeli army check point. Anyone wanting to enter must get their approval.

The streets of Avraham Aveinu are empty as is the rest of the city of Hebron. Shops are shuttered and closed. Many of the Jewish settlers who live here have left the city for the day to attend the funerals in Jerusalem of the three civilians killed in Friday night's attack.

There are no Palestinians on the street. They are forbidden to leave their homes, under terms of the curfew that is in effect for them. But on a rooftop looking down on Avraham Aveinu two heads appear, with an invitation to come to the front door to talk.

Nineteen-year-old Feras Said-Ahmet lives on the top floor of a solid stone building that sits across a narrow street from Avraham Aveinu.

He complains about the life under curfew. He says no one has been able to leave the house for the past four days. But his main concern is not for the immediate future and an easing of restrictions on the Palestinians living in Hebron. The biggest problem, he says, is the settlers. And, he believes, that problem will not be solved until the settlers are gone.

"This is the only solution. Before the Israeli state started there were Jewish, not settlers, Jewish. We were neighbors. We were living. We go to them. They come to us. But these settlers [are] not good. How we will live with them? We can't," he concluded.

The presence of the settlers in Hebron was negotiated in 1997 in a deal struck between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Now serving as foreign minister in an interim Israeli government, Mr. Netanyahu sees a very different solution for Hebron's problems. He says that agreement is now null and void, and he called on the international community for support.

"The Friday night massacre of worshipers who came to pray in Hebron and the soldiers who protected them is a despicable crime. We expect the international community to support Israel's right and obligation to take vigorous action against terror and regimes that back it," Mr. Netanyahu said.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for Friday's attack - a message that Jews aren't welcome. But the Israeli government has responded by saying that the settlers are here to stay and Israel will do whatever it takes to ensure their safety.

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