Palestinian-Israeli settlement still a long way off

Re-settlement and violence have cast a shadow over Wednesday’s proximity talks, aimed at reviving dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. The international community hopes for a peaceful resolution.

However those living on the frontline still face rising tensions.

Azzun village is surrounded by three Israeli settlements and running through its heart is a road that only Jewish settlers can use.

But on one side of the road live 2,000 Palestinians and on the other – their relatives – nine families who cannot cross into their own village without papers and permits.

It takes school student Montaser Abed Alkarem and his friends a lot longer than it should to walk the two kilometers to school each morning

Last year they made better time – but now there’s an Israeli checkpost where a road sign used to be.

“You can’t enter the village where I live without a permit. My school friends who live on the other side of the checkpoint can’t come to my home because they don’t have papers. Before they could visit me, we could move freely, but now the situation is getting worse,” Alkarem says.

The checkpoint is open from five in the morning until ten at night. Every day, as many as 50 school children walk through it, but sometimes they can be stopped here and it can take them up to an hour to get to the other side of the checkpoint.

The last time school director Jamal Ayub saw his cousins and uncles was two months ago He got permission from the Israeli army to visit them – but only for 20 minutes.

“It’s a difficult situation, so we just shook hands and that was that, there’s no time to do anything else. I’m afraid for my family who live across the road because it’s the plan of the Israelis to divide our land. They want to force us out of our own homes,” Ayub says.

Village resident Hossan Ahmed hasn’t seen many of her 120 grandchildren for months. She says the family is also almost bankrupt because of the restrictions put in place by the separation wall.

“I’m very ill. If someone at night wants to go to the doctor, the soldiers refuse to let him through. This wall and this road will be the future border. It’s a tragedy,” Ahmed says.

It is a tragedy that shows no sign of letting up. While the proximity talks might be aimed at breaking down walls on the ground, it seems as if more and more are being built.