The town's area has been populated from prehistoric times, and prehistoric flint tools were found in the modern town's area. In Roman times, a way-station existed in the location called Cala-c'Aliya. Invading armies, many of which came from the Mediterranean coast just 12 km away, often came through Qalqilyah. The ancient Israelite town of Kaballah is thought to be the nearby village of Habla. Its current name comes from the Arabic Qala'alia, meaning high fortress. During the subsequent Muslim rules of the area, the town was populated with Arab inhabitants.
Thousands of landless Palestinian refugees took refuge in the city during the 1948 Palestinian exodus in the lead up to and during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, making one city quarter their home. Known as the people of Kfar Saba and Arab Abu Kishek, the refugees received assistance from UNRWA, but a refugee camp was never formally established because local politicians negotiated for UN assistance to be provided to the whole city in return for integrating the refugees.
After the town came under Israeli occupation in the 1967 Six-Day War, a military order was given to destroy it and expel the inhabitants. Between 9 June and 18 July 1967 at least 850 out of 2,000 dwellings in Qalqilyah were destroyed. After a group of Israeli intellectuals and academics intervened by appealing to the government to halt the destruction, the order was cancelled.
Following the Oslo Accords, the town came under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. Qalqilyah was the scene of the first firefight of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, on September 29, 2000, when a Palestinian police officer working with Israeli police on a joint patrol opened fire, killing his Israeli counterpart. Since then Israeli security forces routinely enter the town and arrest suspects.
Since 2003, the Israeli West Bank barrier has been built to completely encircle Qalqilyah, separating the city from agricultural lands on the other side of the wall, leading to anger and protests from many of the citizens of the city.
In this town on March 26, 2008, Israeli soldiers arrested Omar Jabar, the Hamas planner of the Netanya suicide attack that killed 30 people and wounded 143 others during a Passover dinner celebration in 2002.
In Politics, Hamas Gains in the West Bank; Some in Qalqilyah Say Frustration With Israeli Wall Weakened Fatah
Jun 29, 2005; Bilal Swaleh's journey from prisoner to politician began years ago in an Israeli jail cell. It ended triumphantly last month at...