Nablus, occupied West Bank – There are at least seven Israeli military points and countless heavily armed soldiers on the mere 6km (3.7-mile) stretch of road that runs through the Palestinian town of Huwara.
For the past 55 days, the town, which sits south of Nablus city, has been under a suffocating closure imposed by the Israeli army and settlers that residents liken to a prison.
On a roundabout in the centre of town, soldiers have taken over a large building under construction and stationed snipers and sandbags on all four floors. Big Israeli flags are draped over the hulking concrete structure.
“Huwara is living through the worst state in recent history,” Mansour Dmaidi, a 65-year-old lawyer and resident told Al Jazeera. “It wasn’t even this bad during the Al-Aqsa Intifada [2000-2005].”
While Huwara has suffered recurring closures over the past year and a half, the restrictions were re-enforced on October 5, days before the Gaza-based armed group Hamas launched an attack on Israeli territory, killing some 1,200 people.
Israeli forces said a Palestinian shot at a settler’s car that day, causing no injuries. The man was shot dead by soldiers at the scene.
Hours later, Israeli settlers attacked homes in Huwara and shot dead a 19-year-old Palestinian, Labib Dmaidi, while he was standing on the roof of his uncle’s house.
Since then, the area has been turned into a ghost town, with life only getting more difficult for the town’s 8,000 residents since October 7, after which Israel killed over 15,000 Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, the majority of them women and children.
Huwara, which lies on the highway running north-south from Jenin to Hebron, was once one of the busiest commercial centres for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, its local businesses relying heavily on travelling Palestinians from out of town.
Over the past two weeks, about 80 of the Huwara’s 800 businesses have been allowed to open by the army, including gas stations, bakeries, pharmacies and supermarkets.