Since 2001 we have observed dozens of army checkpoints on paved and unpaved roads in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley and along the Separation Fence; Civil Administration offices which grant permits to Palestinians; and military courts trying Palestinian prisoners. We stand at the checkpoints observing the behavior of soldiers and Palestinians without interfering, intervening only when soldiers behave offensively to Palestinians. Then we try to speak to the soldiers themselves or telephone...
Hamra (Beqaot), Ma'ale Efrayim, Za'tara (Tapuah), Tue 1.5.12, Afternoon
One of the Jordan Rift Valley checkpoints that prevent direct transit between the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, in addition to Tayasir Checkpoint. Located next to Hamra settlement, on Route 57 and the Allon Road.
Translator: Charles K.
Za’tara checkpoint – Tapuach junction
At 10:45 and 17:00 the checkpoint wasn’t manned and people went through freely. Isn’t that a little strange, after “two explosive devices and a pistol” were discovered two days earlier? One soldier is in position on the hill to the southeast, overlooking the plaza.
Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint
No soldiers at 11:00 or at 16:45.
Friends from the Jiftlik region told us that last week the checkpoint closed at 17:00 for seven hours. Long lines formed on both sides. M. also told us about his brother, a 21-year-old shepherd, who was arrested last week for no reason and detained at the checkpoint for hours. The first time, in the middle of last week, he was stopped for two hours at the Hamra checkpoint because “he came near the checkpoint with his sheep.” The second time, on Thursday, he was stopped near Kibbutz Mechora, about 10 km. north of the checkpoint, by soldiers claiming that settlers complained he threw a stone at their car. They brought him to the checkpoint and held him for 4 hours, handcuffed and blindfolded, as a “dangerous terrorist.” He asked for water but hasn't receive any, perhaps because none of the soldiers whose job involves contact with the local population knew Arabic. When the police arrived they asked the soldiers to explain where, exactly, the stone was thrown; they pointed toward the Jiftlik, about 15 km. away from where the youth was being held. Who’ll restore his lost dignity? Who’ll return the stolen hours?
At the Hamra checkpoint we met friends, Racheleh H. and Rony B., standing at the junction, about 100 meters from the checkpoint. In response, the soldiers at the checkpoint stationed one of their number in a sandbagged post, for their benefit, and had also shut down the crossing. A line of cars formed to the east; we all left and the checkpoint reopened.
We talked to A., head of the Bedouin council at Hamam el Malih: Yasser Sliman Qa’abaneh, a 17-year-old boy, was shot near Hamam el Malih, by soldiers on maneuvers in the area, among the dozens of Bedouin tents scattered around. Since he’d been shot from a distance, the injury from the bullet, which entered near his kidney, wasn’t critical. But when they asked the commander of the nearby base for help, he refused. He claimed the youth hadn’t been shot. The injured person was transported in a private car to the Rafidiya hospital in Nablus, from which he was taken to a hospital in Ramallah for an operation to remove the bullet.
About 60% of the area of the JordanValleyhas been declared a firing range – allowing the army to expel local residents. So many different excuses for demolishing homes and expelling their inhabitants!
About a month ago, Adel D. erected his tent in the area below Maskiyot. Every spring he settles here, for the summer, next to the permanent encampment of his three brothers. long before anyone had dreamed of establishing a settlement on the hill. In the winter he goes up the hill from the east, and descends to the valley in the summer. The shepherds have been doing so for ages. But now the settlers from Maskiyot (a relatively new settlement that began as a army outpost), led by Rami, the security coordinator, have grown envious of the brothers living next to the spring below their settlement. And perhaps they’re also hoping to expand their locality (which has already greatly expanded recently) and annex the areas inhabited by Palestinians. That same Rami called the army, which bound Adel for two hours and then forced him to load his belongings onto a cart and go eastward through the Tayasir checkpoint, toward Tubas. Their action was illegal; they were required to obtain an expulsion order and issue a prior warning which would have allowed the victim to bring suit. And so, out of the blue, the army received an order from the settlers and expelled the family from its land (which it leases from the Catholic Church whose headquarters in Israelare in Jerusalem, and to whom it pays rent).
The residents of El Farasiyya (continues A., head of the local council), who’d received demolition orders, requested a meeting with the Civil Administration. The same Civil Administration which is supposed to ensure the welfare of the local population of an occupied territory, but which in fact acts as the operational arm of its master, the army, and its job is to harm the population it is seemingly responsible for protecting. Representatives of the residents met with Asher, the Civil Administration representative, and with their attorney, Tauwfiq Jibran, and while they were talking 250 soldiers deployed among the tents and buildings and declared the location, which was full of children, old people and women, to be a training area!! For 100 years no soldier had even approached this densely settled area, and suddenly – a firing range!!! And if that wasn’t enough, the rest of the area was defined as a nature preserve, in which the region’s legal residents are forbidden to live, or even to enter.
How absurd it is to prohibit grazing in the area is evident, for example, in the Umm Zuka nature preserve, adjoining the Peles base in the northern JordanValley. It encompasses a huge area, with two signs welcoming visitors: “Umm Zuka Nature Reserve” (containing a list of prohibitions alongside information about the nature reserve), and… “FiringRange!!!” – that is, shepherds are not allowed entry to graze their flocks and herds on the neglected vegetation and, in the summer, on the tall thorns and thistles, while the army fires there at will, igniting huge fires among those dry thistles, and that’s what’s known, in occupied Palestine - as a nature reserve!!! There’s not one bird, not one living thing in the nature reserve – it’s all burnt, A. says. A visitor to this “nature reserve” is shocked by the neglect and the danger in the combination of a “nature reserve” and a military training area.