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...
'Azzun 'Atma, Burin (Yitzhar), Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Mon 7.5.12, Morning
South of Nablus, at junction of Routes 57/557, between settlements of Bracha and Itamar. One of three checkpoints that close off Nablus, together with Beit Furik and Beit Iba.
Translator: Charles K.
The occupation routine; it seems Tapuach junction is again operating normally.
06:10 Azzun Atma
A long line – 120-130 people, we estimate – and more keep arriving. Crossing goes quickly, considering there are only two booths for document inspection and another person, outside, inspecting belongings. But that doesn’t really help people who have to wait on line every day, in the cold and the heat. They still have to wait in line an hour or more, arriving early in order to insure they’ll cross in time to get to work. And if they go through relatively quickly they then have to wait outside, but at least seated beside small fires to keep warm (mornings are still chilly). To think about people who live far away (in Bethlehem, for example) and come here via a roundabout route, and then be exposed to all the terrible harassment - but at least they have jobs, which isn’t true for many others.
At one stage they allowed many people through the revolving gate at once, which made the line advance quickly. Those standing farther back began running forward madly, pushing, and pressing against the fence bordering the line, which was in danger of collapse. The soldiers panicked, began shouting, delayed the line, but things quieted down pretty quickly and inspections continued.
A boy on his way to school – the contents of his satchel are inspected – but he’s going to the West Bank, not entering Israel, so why do we care what’s in his satchel?
06:40 The line gets shorter, fewer people join, and since the fence was moved aside earlier by the people pushing against it there’s now more room and the line is wider and shorter. A man we timed took 40 minutes to go through. Towards 07:00 a man we timed took 17 minutes.
Women enter Israel through the vehicle gate, with no line.
We continue. There are police at the Shomron Gate entrance to the West Bank on Highway 5, and a plastic barrier that forces drivers to slow down, but we’re not stopped.
We drove toward Huwwara via Hars, Kifl Hars, Qira and Einabus. Many children on the road going to school, the villages are full of people, many groceries are open and we wonder how the owners of so many groceries can make a living in such small villages.
Burin junction. Huwwara is open; there were no soldiers, nor when we returned.
Huwwara. No soldiers at the checkpoint (maybe they were in the pillbox, but we saw nothing).
09:30 Za’tara junction. Tapuach
No soldiers at the junction at the moment but two cars are in the parking lot at the junction. One immediately drives away, the second is being inspected by dogs. The trunk was emptied, a wheelchair and other belongings lie on the ground, including a large paper envelope. A woman sits in the car –apparently it’s her wheelchair. The dog inspects all the belongings; then the female soldier asks to see what’s in the envelope – x-rays. A few minutes later a Border Police soldier arrives who behaves as if he’s in charge. He also wants to inspect the contents of the envelope, and the x-rays come out again – that’s certainly important, since the soldier is undoubtedly an x-ray specialist in addition to his military skills. And maybe he thinks that the envelope is just right for smuggling weapons. After further discussion with one of passengers they’re released, pack up their belongings and drive away.
Now the two Border Police soldiers return to the junction and send two more cars for inspection. One, full of cartons, is inspected by a dog and released five minutes later. The second car is a taxi. Its passenger have to get out and are sent to stand to the side – “far” from the vehicle. They have to come back and remove all their belongings from their car, and then the dog goes into action. He checks the car and then the belongings, and doesn’t want to come out before receiving a treat. At the same time, the soldier checks documents – apparently speaks to someone on the phone and ten minutes later the taxi is released with its passengers. We should note that the packages removed by the passengers were replaced by the dog handlers.
Now the soldiers close the gate to the junction and take a break.