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The war in Gaza has changed everything for the people in the West Bank

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Much of the death and destruction in the war between Israel and Hamas has happened in the Gaza Strip, but the fallout of the attacks on October 7 is also deeply affecting the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank. Here's NPR's Eyder Peralta.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: The wind is so strong, it makes the fog twirl around the top of the hill, and then it's gone, disappeared into the night sky. Khalid Hamad Afranji walks on top of the wreckage, the mangled metal, the broken concrete, pieces of what used to be the Palestine Equestrian Club. It's cold out here. Afranji shrinks into his jacket like he, too, wants to disappear.

KHALID HAMAD AFRANJI: I spent all my life on this.

PERALTA: This was his dream. He fell in love with horses in Jericho. As a young man, he would groom horses. And in return, the owners would let him ride for free. This place is everything he has worked for. He spent a decade building one of the few horse riding clubs in the West Bank.

AFRANJI: I don't know. They came without telling me they wanted to destroy. They came to destroy everything. You know, they destroy the stable when the horse was inside.

PERALTA: Without a warning, he says, Israeli security forces showed up with excavators, told him this was Palestinian land controlled by the Israeli military, so he couldn't build here. And they began to tear it apart.

Do you think this would have happened before the war anyway?

AFRANJI: No.

PERALTA: There were demolitions before the war, but Israel gave warnings, he says. Even when they demolished, soldiers would salvage the valuables, set aside TVs, couches, refrigerators. You could reason with the Israeli forces, he says, show them your paperwork. But everything changed after the October 7 Hamas attack that left some 1,200 people dead in Israel.

AFRANJI: And now if you just spoke one word, they will shoot you.

PERALTA: He says it's like the Israeli forces have taken the decision to shoot first and ask questions later. Khalid Afranji looks across the hill where the riding arena used to be, where he had built a cafe inside a shipping container. Now it's all rubble.

AFRANJI: If you look here, it's - and if you look on the stable, like, what's happening now, it's - what's Gaza? - the same, the same now.

PERALTA: The same as Gaza.

(SOUNDBITE OF WOOD SPLINTERING)

PERALTA: And then, like the people in Gaza, he walks across the rubble, looking for pieces of wood - what used to be furniture, what used to be walls - to throw them into a fire.

(SOUNDBITE OF WOOD BURNING)

PERALTA: The war in Gaza has changed everything, people here say. It's not that things were OK. in the West Bank. Palestinians live under Israeli occupation in a system that human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, call apartheid. But there used to be rules. Thaer Et-Thaer, who works at the Beitunia municipality in the West Bank, says before the war, for example, Israeli authorities might have even asked someone they wanted to arrest to turn themselves in.

THAER ET-THAER: (Speaking Arabic).

PERALTA: Now they deal with increased harassment. And the arrests, he says, have gotten more violent. A trip that used to take 30 minutes for Thaer now takes two hours, he says, because of all the checkpoints.

DIA QURT: (Through interpreter) They now treat the Palestinian people as animals.

PERALTA: The Israeli military did not respond to our detailed request for comment on this story. But in the past, Israel has defended its actions in the West Bank, saying it is trying to protect itself from attacks. The mayor of Beitunia says the escalation by Israeli forces doesn't really surprise him. He knew when the war started in Gaza that the situation in the West Bank would deteriorate, as well.

QURT: (Speaking Arabic).

PERALTA: "If you look at the terrible scenes in the West Bank, you realize the mentality and the behavior of the soldiers is the same as in Gaza," he says. "They're trained by the same people. They have the same culture, the same policies, the same behavior."

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Praying in non-English language).

PERALTA: Outside the Armoosh house, just on the outskirts of Beitunia, there are still signs of celebration. Palestinian flags and graffiti welcome home Taha Armoosh. His mother, Rayqa Armoosh, who's 63, says he was released from jail by Israel six days before the war.

RAYQA ARMOOSH: (Through interpreter) That day, I felt my diabetes has been healed. I was so happy.

PERALTA: Taha and two of his brothers had been thrown in jail by Israel and held under administrative detention for more than a year. Israel often holds Palestinians for long periods on the suspicion they might commit a future crime. When Taha was released, Rayqa Armoosh says it was the first time her whole family was together in years.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Arabic).

ARMOOSH: (Speaking Arabic).

PERALTA: "It was sweeter than a wedding," she says. Now she hangs her head and opens the door, and the damage is everywhere. Cupboards have been toppled. Tvs have been broken. In one room, walls have been smashed with hammers. The whole family saw the Israeli military blast doors and turn over couches. It felt like the family had been keeping everything inside and then found the words to say it all at the same time.

(CROSSTALK)

PERALTA: How soldiers handcuffed a 13-year-old boy, how a daughter clung to her father as soldiers tried to take him, how the soldiers tried to figure out if they were members of Hamas or the more moderate Fatah. The 16-year-old shows me the scars on his forehead from the beating he got.

ARMOOSH: (Through interpreter) They ask, are you Hamas or Fatah? And because we're dressed the way that the Gaza people are dressed, they treat us like the people in Gaza.

PERALTA: She doesn't understand what happened. Suddenly, her grandkids are without fathers. She's struggling to make all her payments. But she always comes back to that celebration.

ARMOOSH: (Through interpreter) When Taha got out, I said, thank God. All my sons are with me. And we don't want war. We don't want war.

PERALTA: For a moment, she thought her family could live a normal life. But the war she did not want came anyway, and her world came tumbling down. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, reporting from Rafat and Beitunia in the West Bank.

(SOUNDBITE OF THIS WILL DESTROY YOU'S "QUIET") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.