Palestinian deaths in the occupied West Bank are escalating
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
If you look at a map of Israel and the surrounding area, most of our attention is on Gaza. That's the area controlled by Hamas, which moved out of there to kill more than 1,400 Israelis and which Israel is now bombing, killing more than 4,600 Palestinians. But violence is escalating elsewhere, including the occupied West Bank. Israeli security forces have killed at least 90 Palestinians there. NPR's Jackie Northam reports.
JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Palestinians sift through rubble next to a massive hole in the side of a mosque at the Jenin refugee camp, the aftermath of an overnight Israeli airstrike in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli military claim a compound below the mosque was being used by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to organize attacks. The strike will likely inflame tensions between Israeli security forces and Palestinians throughout the West Bank. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and hundreds wounded over the past two weeks.
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NORTHAM: There's a steady stream of customers at this juice shop here in the center of Ramallah. Large glass vats of fresh fruit juices line one wall behind the counter. The owner, Abu Sharif (ph), puts a spoonful of several into a shaker.
ABU SHARIF: Dragonfruit, strawberry, papaya, avocado.
NORTHAM: Sharif's shop looks out over Manara Square, a popular gathering spot in Ramallah. He says the protests have grown larger since Israel announced a full blockade on Gaza in retaliation for the Hamas attack earlier this month which killed more than 1,400 Israelis.
SHARIF: More people, they be in demonstrations, and they more angry compared before the war. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).
NORTHAM: And the protests are getting increasingly violent. People here are glued to TV and social media following every development in Gaza. Some say Hamas militance is taking action against years of Israeli occupation. Thirty-nine-year-old Sana Rumea (ph) sips a coffee and says she wishes Hamas was in the West Bank.
SANA RUMEA: (Non-English language spoken).
NORTHAM: "We're with Hamas," she tells me. "They're fighting for our people." She says the militant group is doing more for the people than the Palestinian Authority, which governs this area.
RUMEA: (Non-English language spoken).
NORTHAM: "The Palestinian Authority, which is supposed to be our government," she says, "is doing absolutely nothing for us at a time that Hamas is doing everything for us." There's a growing collective anger in the West Bank against the Palestinian Authority, simply known as the PA. It's viewed as being under the thumb of Israel. Its security forces also crack down on protesters. The president of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas, has not called elections since he came to power nearly 20 years ago. Ismat Mansour, a Ramallah-based analyst, says the U.S. and Israel want to keep a pliable leader in the West Bank. He says Abbas has failed to bring democracy or clamp down on the rampant corruption in his administration.
ISMAT MANSOUR: And there is a big gap between him and the people.
NORTHAM: Abbas is 87 years old. Fadi Quran, a community organizer and human rights activists in the West Bank, says if Palestinians were allowed to have free and fair elections, you would see inspiring young leaders rise. But...
FADI QURAN: Here, whenever you have these types of voices attempt to rise up, they get arrested; they get silenced.
NORTHAM: Quran says the frustration with the PA is more acute as Palestinians in the West Bank watch what's happening in Gaza, where nearly 5,000 people have died in Israeli airstrikes since October 7.
QURAN: I would not say that this has led to increased support for Hamas ideologically or politically, but I would say that many Palestinians feel that they do need to find ways to take up arms to protect themselves against attacks from settlers and the Israeli military.
NORTHAM: Which runs the risk of creating a different version of Hamas in the West Bank.
Jackie Northam, NPR News, Ramallah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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