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The Israeli siege on Nablus: The Mall must Fall?

Palestine Monitor
17 July 2008

City mall, schools, charities, orphanages, health centers, media organisations, mosques… Since the 7th of July, the Israeli forces have started a new siege campaign on the city of Nablus, by raiding and ransacking several popular organisations and imposing a long term closure on alleged Hamas-affiliated organisations. After being under siege for more than 7 years, the city of Nablus, northern West Bank, is facing another round of arbitrary agressions.

The heavy campaign against charities and other organisations started on the 7th of July when the Israeli forces closed six charities after ransacking the offices and confiscating computers, documents, equipments as well as cash. According to Ma’an news agency, in one of the Nablusian dispensary ransacked, “the Israeli soldiers destroyed all the contents of the dispensary and stole the equivalent of 5,000 US dollars from the clinic’s safe.” But above the material aggression, the raided associations have been imposed an arbitrary closure for two or three years, depending on the case.

The Israeli didn’t target only charitable organisations: 6 mosques, the municipality Council of the city, along with clinics, health centres, schools and media associations have been raided and ransacked for more than one week. In every place, computers, documents and money have been confiscated.

Israeli attacks affect the whole Community

Most owners of the destroyed places issued press releases refuting the Israeli accusations of them being Hamas-affiliated, highlighting that some of them have been founded even years prior to the creation of the Hamas movement. Needless to mention that arguments invoked by the Israeli are quite light –most of them are just based on assumptions- in comparison with the economic and social consequences of the closure.

Such raids are not a premiere in the Israeli siege policy. It happened in Hebron and Qalqilya before Nablus. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Israeli forces have closed down more than 50 charities over the past two years. But now and for more than 9 consecutive days, the Israeli forces have focused their efforts on the city of Nablus.

The city has always received a ‘special treatment’ from the Israeli forces, by being surrounded by a huge network of checkpoints that cut the city off from the other Palestinian center and by the occupation forces besieging the city –by night military incursions- every night for the last 7 years, imposing de facto a non formal curfew on its 135,000 citizens.

But since last week, the Israeli forces decided to hit stronger: according to Palestinian security sources, 120 Israeli military vehicles stormed Nablus on the first Monday night to raid “suspicious” Palestinian associations in the city.

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A Palestinian inspects an office ransacked by the Israeli army in the West Bank city of Nablus, 7 July 2008.
Picture: Rami Swidan/MaanImages

Closing the city Mall and attempting on private citizens properties

In the heart of the city of Nablus – a short distance from the old city where the scars of the latest fights still remain- stands the city’s shopping Mall, a modern 5-storey complex comprising of some 50 individual shops and offices, all owned by private owners. But to Israel, the shops and companies located there fund Hamas movement and ’encourage terrorism’, an accusation based on the assumption that the head of the Mall administration, Adli Yayish, is affiliated to Hamas.

The Mall has been stormed a couple of nights in the past week, with the Israeli forces destroying and confiscating documents and materials, and sealing some shops. The Israeli army commander posted closure-notices on the windows, stating "anyone found in this center will be considered as working on behalf of Hamas and puts himself and his properties in danger” [1]. The highly arbitrary order will come into effect on the 15th of August, giving no more than a month to the 70 storeowners to remove their businesses and cope with the Israeli order.

Furthermore, the Israeli commander mentioned that the ownership of the Mall will be transferred to the Israeli authorities as of the 18th of August. By carrying such an action, the Israeli occupation forces is not doing anything else than literally stealing the property right from Nablus individuals, highly defying the right of ownership guaranteed by the Universal declaration of the Human Rights.

Dar El Amal, an investment company located on the first floor, was ransacked five days ago by the Israeli military who sealed off the place. Two other empty shops have been sealed with huge metal bars in order to prevent anyone from renting them and open a new business. One of those has been recently bought for 70 000 $ by a private owner who won’t be able to take any benefits from his purchase. “This is completely contradictory to the private ownership rights, ” deplored Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, the Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, who visited the place on Monday to show support to the merchants. “This shop has been bought by a private owner and has nothing to do with any Hamas affiliated connections. That is just his way of earning his living.”

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Dar El Amal, an investment company located on the first floor, was ransacked by the Israeli military who sealed off the place.
Photo: Palestine Monitor

Realistically, how could every single merchant of a public Mall that includes more than 4,000 shareholders be linked to politics or Hamas? According to Dr. Jamal Muhseisen, the governor of the city, “70 merchants and 4,000 Palestinians investors, from the Muslim, Christian and Samarian communities had business interests in the Nablus Mall.

“What we want now, is the PA to support us in denying the Israeli orders. We want a written agreement from their part”, said Omar Khyaf, the spokesperson of the Nablus Mall Committee. While visiting the place, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, stressed on his full support and thanked the merchants for keeping their businesses open. Barghouthi also called on the PA to defy the Israeli decision and the Israeli army’s attempt to close down a major commercial centre and to provide the storeowners concrete support.

Attempting on the Palestinian control

But confiscating private property of Nablus citizens is not the only aim of the Israelis. By besieging the place and issuing arbitrary law; they are also attempting on the Palestinian control on the city, as Nablus is located in the A area, a zone designated by the Oslo interim agreement to fall under full PA control. But on the ground, the reality is different and the PA forces are almost powerless to stop Israel’s daily incursions into the area.

The raids last week are another example of the Israeli strategy aiming to undermine the security and stability in PA areas, and are again in violation of the Oslo agreement.

This has been done before, when similar raids took place in in Hebron, Qalqilya and Ramallah areas since the beginning of the year. But today, the legal sanction means the campaign will now be expanded to other parts of the West Bank.

The legal fight that is now taking place in Nablus against the highly arbitrary Israeli decision represents a crucial stake for the entire West Bank. “If we win here, they won’t do it in other cities. If we surrender or fail here, then they will spread the policy everywhere else,” said Barghouthi.

By raiding numerous popular places and imposing arbitrary closures on the Mall and civil society organizations, Israel is deliberately confiscating the private ownership of Nablus residents, undermining the Palestinian control and patiently killing the civil and social life in Nablus, by attempting to seal off one of the most popular spot of the city.


[1] Reported by the Palestinian Media Center.