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Friday, 27 October, 2000, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Israeli curfew creates ghost town
Israeli soldiers in Hebron
Hebron is one of the West Bank's major hot spots
By Mike Donkin in Hebron

As Israel seeks to quell unrest in the Palestinian communities on the West Bank, it has introduced draconian measures in the most serious trouble spots.

Palestinians in the old city of Hebron have been barred from leaving their homes in a 24-hour curfew.


In this area, nobody can work or can go out in our home, and I can't bring food and milk for my children

Khaled Sakouri, Hebron resident
It has created a ghost town, with no work, and no schooling - measures that have stirred still more anti-Israeli feeling.

Normally this is the bustling heart of Hebron, the central market, full of traders and carts. Now, there is just wind blowing the canvas.

Frontline trouble

Israeli soldiers sit on a heavily armoured catwalk above the market square, making sure nobody moves.

To protect the few settlers in their midst, the 40,000 Palestinians in this mixed sector live under a constant curfew.

It is lifted only for a couple of hours every three days. People peer from their windows and unlock their doors warily.

Fatah protest in Hebron
Armed Palestinians demonstrate in Hebron
Afifi Sirwati is a teacher, trapped and angry.

"As you see, we are living as though we are in prison," she says.

For the past month, she says, there has been no such thing as normal life.

"During the curfew, we can't go to bring medicine, to bring food, to bring anything we want."

On the frontline with Palestinian-controlled Hebron, Israeli soldiers meet with a barrage of chanting and volleys of stones.

Housebound

The clashes have become a ritual but rubber-coated bullets are fired when the troops lose patience.

Cartoon shows on the television are the only escape for most family. Khaled Sakouri says his children are as frustrated as he is that they are housebound.

"They ask me what has happened and why can't we go to school," he says. "But I tell them it is too dangerous. They ask me why, but I can't explain to them why they close their schools."

Khaled and his brothers run a pottery that is outside their area under curfew.

"We cannot go to my factory to work there, me and my brother, because if I go, the soldiers will shoot me and my brother," he says.

"In this area, nobody can work or can go out in our home, and I can't bring food and milk for my children."

The song that his children sing may sound sweet. But the words tell their own story:

"Our dad brought us rifles and we're coming to join the Palestinian army. And they taught us in the army that we will have a victory over Israel and America."

The frustrations that Palestinians in Hebron feel are taking seed.

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