Hebron is the largest city in the West Bank with a population of around 170 000 people. It is the district capital of the Hebron Governorate, the largest governorate in the West Bank. Since early 1997, following the Hebron Protocol, the city has been divided into two parts: H1 and H2. The H1 area, home to around 140 000 Palestinians, came under the control of the Palestinian authorities. The H2 area, which is inhabited by around 30 000 Palestinians and approximately 500 Israeli settlers in four downtown settlements, remained under Israeli military control.
Hebron is a commercial and industrial centre in the region, and today accounts for around one third of the West Bank GDP. Hebron's stone industry is generating vast incomes. The special limestone found in the area is cut and then used for building throughout the region. Other important economic sectors are shoes and leather products as well as Hebron's pottery workshops and glassblowing factories. Yet many local producers face difficulties in exporting their products, or even sending them to Jerusalem, due to restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities.
It is in the H2 area and the Old City that the local economy has suffered the most. Hebron's old market area used to be the main commercial hub of the southern West Bank. According to a survey done by the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in 2007, 1 829 Palestinian shops located in H2 have closed since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000. This is mainly due to military orders, curfews and the closure regime imposed by the Israeli authorities hampering economic activity.
In 1994, the once main market street of Hebron, Al-Shuhada street was closed by military order for Palestinian vehicles and pedestrians. According to the Hebron Protocols from 1997, the street should be re-opened to Palestinians. This was partially implemented in 1997 and 1998. However, since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, the street has again been closed for Palestinians.
According to a study by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), conducted in 2009, 77 percent of the Palestinians in Hebron's Old City in H2 live below the poverty line.