"Nowadays a beard is no longer a religious decree, it's a clear and present danger," one of the merchants told Ynet. "Fatah harasses anyone with a beard and beats them, so may Allah forgive us if we remove ours to stay safe. As it is the beard is optional and not mandatory," he said.
In Ramallah last weekend three French citizens were badly beaten by Fatah men who suspected them of being affiliated with Hamas due to their facial hair. Hamas meanwhile has accused Fatah of persecuting the religion of Islam and subsequently anyone who looks religious due to his appearance.
Qalqiliya's marketplace is usually swamped with tens of thousands of visitors on Saturdays, primarily Israeli Arabs, all packed tightly between the teeming market stands, restaurants and bakeries.
This Saturday however, after a week of bloodshed in the PA, only several dozen shoppers made their way to Qalqiliya. Those who did come enjoyed dramatically low prices due to the abrupt change in consumer demand. The marketplace already boasts significantly lower prices than those found in Israel.
Two pounds of potatoes, sold at an average $1 in Israel and $0.70 in Qalqiliya, went for $0.20 this weekend.
"We have to sell it, even for pittance. It's better than being left with goods that will rot," they said.
Midday official Palestinian security troops arrived, wearing facemasks. A group of young boys pestered the armed men, who threatened them with rifles. One of the stall owners, fearing a riot would scare away the few customers that did come, grabbed one of the boys and slapped him. The crowd dispersed.
Hamas in hiding
Even the PA troops, whose main concern is usually directing traffic and chatting with shoppers, were tense and on alert; examining ID cards, mostly those belonging to Palestinians. Israelis? That's just fine, come and shop.
Not far from the market is the Qalqiliya city hall, the glass pane of its front door smashed in and other parts of the building have been vandalized. City workers have not yet even bothered to sweep up the broken shards from the pavement outside. Hamas is in complete control of the city and every one of the 15 council members is from the movement.
One of the councilmen apologizes that he cannot meet with us: "We've decided to lay low since we might be arrested by the PA or kidnapped and harmed by Fatah. God knows when this situation will end. Drunk on its own power after its victory Hamas in Gaza forgot about its brothers in the West Bank. 150 of them have been kidnapped or arrested over the last few fays, one was shot in killed in Nablus and many more were wounded."