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, Ar-Ras, Eliyahu Crossing, Falamiya, Habla, Jubara (Kafriat), Mon 23.7.12, Morning
We went to check the Tamar Gate, from the direction of Oranit - the gate on the road was closed but, before the turnoff to the Tamar gate, about 20 Palestinians were sitting by the side of the road, watched over by 2 soldiers. Apparently these were illegal entrants who had entered through holes in the fence. The soldiers were getting them up and marching them toward the Tamar Gate. We continued to 'Azzun 'Atma and saw that the Gate in the direction of the road to the Tamar Gate from 'Azzun was already open.
There is work going on in the area, apparently preparations for moving the fence, which was ordered by the High Court.
06:20 'Azzun 'Atma
The line was quite short, since there is usually a line of 50-60 people here; three inspection points and, by 6:40, the line was completely gone. In reponse to our inquiry to Palestinians and soldiers whether there was a decrease in people going through because of Ramadan, we were told that this is not the case.
Four Palestinians were sitting on the side, facing the fence and not the checkpoint - illegal entrants who were caught going through a hole in the fence. Not clear why the holes are not fixed instead of sending soldiers to hunt down Palestinians - it is terrible.
No one is waiting at the checkpoint. We went to the Tamar Gate which was still open (although supposed to close at 06:45), since there were a lot of people and the soldiers said that they would let everyone through. It seems that recently a lot of people prefer the Tamar Gate since there are always long lines at 'Azzun where one has to wait a long time (not today, surprisingly). Those going through mention that, in the afternoon, they return through the gate at 'Azzun Atma. A wagon with a donkey goes through, a car, and finally a herd of sheep.
The gate is already open and about 30 people are still waiting. Lots of arguments about the line; whenever it becomes threatening, the soldiers intervene; they have to settle things themselves. The passage is much slower than at 'Azzun, we don't know why. This magnometer is not something that takes a lot of time, but neverthless, only 20 people go through in 10 minutes under one inspector, and that was the height of speed at this checkpoint by my calculation. At 07:35 there were 10 people left in line, though others join sporadically.
07:45 Eliyahu Gate - no one in the pedestrian line, silence.
A herd of sheep and goats is just going through the checkpoint, going to the west, with a donkey and the lame shepherd. It was amazing to see how the herd stood still for him in silence and waited until the shepherd went through the checkpoint. In fact, the whole checkpoint here was isolated and seemed very strange in this environment - in the middle of Nowhere. The soldiers were sleepy. A vehicle arrived from the East and passed through, after inspection.
Everything is functioning normally, quiet. We came in order to see what is happening with the new fence, and indeed one can see the workers on the route which is alread encompassing Jabara and continues between Sla'it and Kfar Sur. We went up to El Rus in order to see better - the view is beautiful, if only it weren't cut through the middle. What is not clear is how the people of Jabara, El Rus and Kfar Sur will get to their olive orchards which remain outside the fence from their point of view. Will they make a new gate nearer to their lands? Moving the fence this way certainly did not solve their problem of access to their lands, onlly changed it a bit.
Back to Eliyahu Gate with flags - they asked where we were from and then detain us and talk with whoever is or isn't in charge on the telephone. The traffic behinds us gets annoyed and they finally let us through - thanks to the police of the borders for their alertness in preventing harm to the State by 2 elderly women.