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Israeli troops have killed several dozen Palestinians in the occupied West Bank

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

The fighting between Israel and Hamas, which operates in Gaza, is increasing tension and violence roughly 60 miles away in another Palestinian territory, the West Bank. Palestinian officials say, since last week, Israeli troops have killed several dozen people there in the landlocked territory Israel has occupied for 56 years. This follows more than a year of stepped-up military raids, airstrikes and fatal attacks and counterattacks between Israeli settlers and Palestinians.

To understand more about how Palestinians in the West Bank are experiencing this moment, we turn now to Yara Hawari. She's a senior analyst of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, and she lives in Jerusalem. She tells us many exits to West Bank towns and villages have been closed, greatly limiting the population's movement.

YARA HAWARI: Just to give you context, the West Bank is under Israeli military occupation, which means that the Israeli army has control over the whole area. And it's created this military infrastructure that allows them easily to close down Palestinian towns and villages by barricading roads, by blocking entrances and exits. In addition to these physical barriers, there's also a lot of fear because Israeli settlers who illegally reside in the West Bank have been given more arms, in part because so much of the Israeli army is being diverted to the south. And these Israeli settlers are going on rampages and shooting Palestinians. So, you know, movement across the West Bank is already - in the best of times is already severely limited. But now there's so much fear and tension. It really has come to a standstill.

RASCOE: And so what has - that mean when you say it's come to a standstill?

HAWARI: Well, a lot of businesses and workplaces have closed, and people are not going into work. And a lot of the schools have closed, as well, out of fear of the very unsafe reality that has been created. You know, it is fear, but it's a fear that's very much grounded in the reality of life under military occupation. And I have to say, you know, over the last week, Palestinians in the West Bank who are prevented from seeing people in Gaza physically - you know, we've been glued to our TV screens, to our laptop screens, just waiting for news from friends and from people that we know. So it's been a really difficult atmosphere even though we are not going through near, you know, the same level of violence that Palestinians in Gaza are going through. The fear and the tension and the escalation of violence is really palpable.

RASCOE: What are you hearing from Palestinians in the West Bank about the Hamas attack? What are the views that you're hearing?

HAWARI: I mean, I think, you know, most Palestinians understand this in the context that the Western media is not understanding it. This is as a result of decades of military occupation but particularly in Gaza, 16 years of a brutal military siege. Palestinians in Gaza live in an open-air prison. They're basically held hostage in this tiny piece of land. The land, sea and air borders are all tightly controlled by the Israeli regime. Hardly anyone goes in or out. All the goods and electricity is severely restricted. And this was before even last Saturday. This has been going on for 16 years.

And it's difficult, I think, for us in the West Bank, for Palestinians in the West Bank to comprehend that kind of reality. Palestinians in the West Bank live under a military occupation, which is already, you know, incredibly brutal and harsh, but the siege in Gaza is on another level. And so I think, you know, Palestinians are understanding it through that light. They are deeply fearful about what is about to come. You know, I think Palestinians see this very much as an attempt to ethnically cleanse Gaza of the Palestinian population.

One of the big talking points at the moment is this facilitation of a humanitarian corridor in Gaza into Egypt if the Egyptian regime agrees. And there's a real fear that this, basically, will be a permanent exile. And Palestinians not just in Gaza but in the West Bank and across the rest of Palestine are perpetually frightened of being kicked out of their homes, of being permanently exiled because this is what - you know, something that has been ongoing for so long.

RASCOE: When you talk about the Israeli response to the Hamas attack, is there any military response to that attack that you feel would be acceptable?

HAWARI: The response to what happened on Saturday has to be the end of the occupation. I mean, it's unbelievable that that isn't even a talking point for most of the mainstream media outlets and for the - for politicians. Palestinians are not inherently bloodthirsty people. We are not human animals, as one Israeli politician described us. We are people that want to live free and in dignity. What happened on Saturday was bred of the occupation.

RASCOE: What do you think this current conflict means for the future of Palestinians overall?

HAWARI: So I think it doesn't look good, but I do think that there are opportunities for us to really think about what solidarity looks like, to rethink what it means for a regime that is internationally supported and given not just diplomatic support but material support to keep an entire people hostage - what that means for the rest of the world. What does it mean for the international legal regime when there is a country that is systematically violating international law and being allowed to do so and, actually, its violations of international law being facilitated by powers such as the U.S. and the EU? So I think this moment offers some serious reflection on where we are in the world.

RASCOE: That's Yara Hawari, senior analyst of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, speaking to us from Jerusalem. Thank you so much for talking to us.

HAWARI: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLARISSA BITAR AND ABBY ABDEL-KHALEK'S "LEILA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.

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