A strictly enforced curfew backed by armored personnel carriers has paralyzed life in the occupied lands, leaving many of the 1.7 million Palestinians broke, afraid and short-tempered.
The army imposed the curfew right after fighting in the Persian Gulf broke out Jan. 17. After two weeks, it is the longest curfew since the 1967 Middle East war - even in the Palestinians' 3-year-old uprising against occupation.It keeps people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip cooped up in their homes, except for respites of a couple hours two or three times a week. Then they are allowed out to shop, but they sometimes find stores running short of necessities.
On Wednesday, a Palestinian who violated the curfew was shot dead by Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip Maghazi refugee camp. The military said the man, Ibrahim Abu Jalal, 29, had resisted arrest, tried to grab a soldier's weapon and was shot and killed during an attemped escape.
Palestinians charge they are being punished for their praise of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The army says the curfew is meant to prevent Palestinians from sabotaging Israel in a time of crisis.
"We are worried the Palestinians will try to create havoc at the home front, and we are taking steps to protect ourselves," an army official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The curfew already has taken a heavy toll, especially on the Palestinian economy that has been bled dry by the frequent general strikes and curfews of the uprising.
About 100,000 Palestinians have been cut off from day labor jobs in Israel that were their only source of income. Many Palestinians used up their savings during the revolt.
Maen Atta, a 29-year-old Bethlehem resident, said he had to borrow $150 from a cousin to buy food and clothes for his newborn daughter, Duha, because he cannot get to his job at a Jerusalem printing plant.