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...
'Awarta, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), יום ב' 19.1.09, בוקר
Translation: Suzanne O.
Summary: On Saturday at Beita soldiers beat people, overturned greengrocery stalls in the market, threatened to fire and threw stun grenades. The road between Za'atra and Huwwara was closed. The people are too frightened to complain to the police.
There are new orders every other morning as to who is permitted to cross Awarta roadblock in the mornings.
The roadblock commander at Huwwara terrorises the few stallholders who risked returning to the car park. One of the stallholders was beaten three weeks ago and needed treatment in hospital.
The inspection of outgoing vehicles from Nablus is very slow. The passengers have to cross via the pedestrian crossing and hundreds wait in the car park.
The police were called because we didn't consent to stand outside the roadblock (in the 'sterile area').
Marda - open. Zeita - closed, as usual.
Za'atra (Tapuach) Junction
There are few vehicles in the queues. The reservists are helpful and give explanations to questions. A bus from Nablus to Ramallah is held up for an inspection of documents. The driver said that at Huwwara the roadblock is 'OK'.
A Border Police jeep is parked at the entrance. There are 3 soldiers, one of them middle aged. We are "interfering with the inspection" (apart from them and us there is no one else around). Until we arrived we saw that vehicles were leaving without being checked, during the time we were there one vehicle was inspected as it entered.
We talked to 3 youngsters who crossed; they told us that lately there is a roadblock at the entrance to the village every day.
On Saturday soldiers and Border Policemen threw stun grenades, overturned crates of vegetables in the wholesale market at the entrance to the village, threatened the stallholders that if they did not leave they would be shot and beat anyone they wanted to. In addition the road between Za'atra Junction and Huwwara was closed to Palestinian traffic.
We suggested that they make a complaint to the police (with the help of 'Yesh Din') but they said that they fear reprisals. Even so we left a calling card with them.
There are 3 preoccupied soldiers. At this time of day there are only ingoing cars to Nablus. Not one was inspected.
There is a long queue of cars from the direction of Nablus, over 20 of them. The soldier demands that we move back to Madison Way. We stay.
A car with yellow number plates is parked for a long time arguing with the soldiers. The driver tells us that he forgot to bring his passport (?) with him. Finally he is permitted to continue on.
Later the commander explained the orders to us: lorries - only ID cards and the loads are inspected (it is not clear how); cars - only VIPs are permitted to cross, the rest are sent to Huwwara, no matter how long they have waited. Only the privileged among the VIPs are permitted to drive on the Madison route (the apartheid road leading from Huwwararoad block eastward).
At Huwwara a taxi driver who had crossed at Awarta, and he is not a VIP, told us that he had just been held up a long time; it is always worth arguing because then sometimes even the beaurocracy folds. During the extensive occupation one learns to survive.
8.30 - 10:40 a.m.
When we got there we found the roadblock commander (lieutenant) and his deputy (1st sergeant) arguing with the stallholders.
About a month ago, on the orders of Captain Abu Rokon of the DCO, all the stallholders were forced out. These are people with families, hardship cases, who have found a way of making a living in spite of the high level of unemployment in the territories. Why were they forced out? At first it was claimed that it caused mess (anyone seeing the state of the roadblock and how it is run - this is not the problem, they should consider people first, then the grounds!), the other claim: until the roadblock is closed (it was supposed to be closed a month ago!) there should be no turmoil. What the real reason is, if there is one - who knows? But life is more powerful than edicts and slowly, slowly the stalls returned. What did the roadblock commander want? Apparently to frighten them. He told us that the mess bothers him ((there is no) again the mess). We showed him the pile of rubbish beside the new fence of the shiny new roadblock. The stallholders said that Zaharan allows them to be there, only the roadblock commander makes problems for them.
One of them told us that a stallholder (a relative) was badly beaten 3 weeks ago and needed hospital treatment.
The roadblock is practically empty; there are about 5 people in the 'humanitarian' queue and another queue.
The roadblock commander comes over to banish us according to the orders of the Battalion Commander, pinned up on the wall of the kiosk. This time the claim is that he is responsible for our safety. We explain that it does not permit us to see and report. He called the police and did not take any further notice of us.
Most of those entering and leaving via the 'humanitarian' queue (women, children and older men) show their ID cards; their baggage is inspected by a military policewoman from behind a window. They open and take out of their bags clothes, shoes... a tourist with two large rucksacks. The military policewoman requests a screwdriver from the soldiers in order to open something. Finally she gives in. Two women lift a large bag so that the policewoman can put her hand out of the window and feel what is in it.
We check the cell to find out whether there is anyone in there. It is empty. The door is situated in the opposite direction from where we stand, so we have to go forward to see it.
The vehicle roadblock: for those entering there is no inspection; the x-ray machine is in place; there is no sniffer dog.
At the exit: there are 8 vehicles. This queue grows as the inspection becomes slower.
A taxi driver with his wife and children is held up a long time for inspection. Finally - they cross. We cannot find out anything because the roadblock commander does not speak to us ("because you are breaking the law") and forbids the rest of the soldiers to speak to us.
He spreads a strip with spikes alongside the lane for incoming vehicles.
A vehicle comes near. The passengers alight at a distance of about 10 metres. The vehicle is inspected, boot as well. It is then sent to the x-ray machine with its load.
A bus draws up. All the passengers alight. The driver brings all the ID cards. An argument starts, also between the soldiers; the driver returns to the bus and comes back with a load of permits. The DCO representative arrives. He takes the permits for inspection. Meanwhile a queue builds up from the direction of the entrance to Nablus. A Palestinian driver dare not cross the roadblock before a soldier beckons him, and here, suddenly, they can cross freely. One driver does not understand or does not risk it and waits and waits. When we mention it to the soldier it does not bother him ("a few minutes, it's not terrible, let him wait").
And then the police, who were called in our honour, turn up. The policeman says he was told we had caused an affray. The conversation with the policeman was amicable. He requested that we do as the commander says. He does not know who is right. He has an accident (not serious) to deal with and he is being held up here. Here the roadblock commander is the authority, he suggests that we talk to the officers at the Ariel police station and also gives us the telephone number. There is also an underlying threat: I do not want to arrest you and take you to the station.
At the same time the roadblock commander speaks to Nettie and says that he is holding up the inspections because of us and, if we leave, he promises to get rid of the queue within 15 minutes. Indeed the vehicle queue has grown and we cannot see the end of it. He also apologises that he did not talk to us. He has helped our women when they obey instructions.
We left the vehicle area.
We returned about 15 minutes later. The queue is as long as it was before. Now bus passengers are taken off and have to cross the roadblock via the pedestrian crossing. The roadblock is full of people and several hundred are crowded in the car park and on the road, because the vehicle inspection is very slow. We phoned Zaharan and he promised to come right away.
Meanwhile they have started to inspect ingoing vehicles. An Israeli vehicle is turned away.
Beita - there is no military vehicle at the entrance or anywhere around.
Za'atra - the queues are short in all directions. A bus is inspected in the area.