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...
Burin (Yitzhar), Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Mon 16.2.09, Morning
The checkpoint is at the crossroads of Route 60 and the road leadint to Huwwara.
Translator: Charles K.
The problem at the Huwwara checkpoint is the long line of cars and the slow inspections of people leaving Nablus. Although things are easier for those who don't live in Nablus or the surrounding area, the infrastructure and the number of soldiers are insufficient to inspect the increased traffic.
The entrance to Marda is open. Concrete cubes block the entrance to Zeita.
Za'tara junction, 7:05 - 19 cars coming from Nablus, and two inspection lanes.
Beita junction - There's recently been a flying CP there. Today there were no soldiers at the entrance.
Burin junction - no soldiers.
Awarta junction, 7:25-7:45 -
We don't know how many trucks are on line from Nablus because the road curves. We counted 9, and don't know how many more were there. Nor can the soldiers know how many trucks are on line.
The checkpoint is for trucks. In addition, cars with VIP permits also go through. They're also permitted to drive on the Madison route toward the Huwwara checkpoint. Two lines form - for trucks and for VIP's. Soldiers give priority to the VIP's, but usually check both lines at the same time. Time is wasted on arguments with drivers of the private cars, apparently about the kind of permit they have. We saw two private cars turned back to Nablus.
Entry to Nablus is unrestricted, like at Huwwara.
The checkpoint commander came over to move us back a meter and a half, behind the stop sign. We didn't see any point in arguing, just as there wasn't any point to his request.
We counted 9 trucks when we left (hopefully, that was in fact the end of the line), and 5 cars.
We got on the road to the Bracha settlement to count how many cars are waiting in line from Nablus - 26 cars. There are only two inspection lanes provided for cars coming from Nablus. The third lane is for cars entering. A fourth lane isn't used (why?). An ambulance waited 5 minutes, because there's no separate line for it.
We met A. R., the DCO crossings officer. He painted signs at the checkpoint with the phone number of the Nablus DCO (02-970-3160) in Arabic and Hebrew.
He said that there have been a number of restrictions lifted recently:
- Israeli Arabs are permitted to go through on Saturday.
- Physicians and men older than 50 are permitted to leave Nablus by car, with their families, without a permit. The other residents of Nablus and the surrounding villages need a special permit.
The vehicle inspection is very slow. Each car stops a few meters in front of the inspection point, all passengers get out, the driver advances, gets out, and then the car is thoroughly inspected, the trunk, the seats, the ID, and only then are the passengers permitted to return and drive on.
It took 20 minutes to inspect 15 vehicles in two lanes, so there's about a 35 minute wait on line. Sometimes one of the inspection booths stops working, so there's only one.
S., the DCO representative, says that it's because of a manpower shortage, so one of the booths sometimes isn't manned. Also, the soldiers aren't very experienced in conducting the inspections, unlike the MP's.
The x-ray vehicle is closed. It opens after 9:00. There's no dog.
Trucks are detoured to Awarta.
The soldier in the pillbox counted 16 cars on line at 8:35.
9:30 - More than 20 cars. Only one lane open. We telephoned A. R., but then the second lane opened. It doesn't seem that any more can be done, because there's no room for another lane. The problems began when some of the restrictions on cars were lifted. Before that there was almost no traffic. On the other hand, the checkpoint wasn't prepared for the increase.
We saw S., the DCO representative, return an ID to a driver. He told us that the driver passed them driving wildly, and almost hit them. They took pity on him and didn't call the police; they just detained him at the checkpoint for two hours.
The pedestrian checkpoint
Most of the traffic in the morning is to Nablus.
At 8:00 we counted 118 people entering during 20 minutes.
At 9:00, 115 during 5 minutes.
Few people leaving. At 8:00 7 people left during 10 minutes.
There were never more than 15 people on all the lines.
At the old checkpoint (two months ago), many more pedestrians waited to exit at this hour. One explanation might be that more people now go through in cars, despite the wait. It may also be that the inspection is faster at the new checkpoint.
Inspections are conducted in two lanes, besides the humanitarian lane.
At 9:30, 25 men were inspected during 20 minutes. There's about a 10 minute wait. We can't see the inspection booth for the humanitarian lane from where we have to stand.
The inspection is carried out quietly; people go through the repetitive motions like robots, like an assembly line: through the turnstile (which rotates when the female MP in the booth pushes a button), empty pockets, remove jacket, through the magnemometer, and if it beeps start removing belt, shoes, take out ID, go to the window, give ID, back to the counter, start dressing, take the ID through the lower slot, continue dressing. Lift packages or bags onto a higher shelf, remove contents so the female MP behind the window can see, and then exit through another turnstile.
Someone didn't follow procedures (we didn't understand where he erred), and was immediately punished by the female MP. He was ordered to "ruh ‘l'aw'rah" (go back), immediately obeyed, returned to the turnstile and awaited new instructions. Woe to him who doesn't obey exactly as expected by the voice from within the concrete cube.
The parking lot. A few stands selling snacks and drinks, all on carts that can be removed if necessary. It turns out they're still being harassed, but without violence.
We spoke to Muhammad, the youth selling candy for one shekel. He say's he's 15, but looks like he's 12. His father had a vegetable stand in the parking lot, and is now unemployed. Muhammad is the family's only wage earner. He sells about NIS 30 each day.
Za'tara - 17 cars from Nablus, two inspection lanes open. No cars from the west.
Kif'l Hars - Sometimes there's a flying CP next to the pillbox at the entrance to the village, but there's none today.