The occupation routine at 'Azzun 'Atma: hunting people in Israel illegally.
06:16 The road from the Oranit terminal to 'Azzun 'Atma – Some cars are parked on the road; perhaps there had been an accident. There’s also a police car and a car in the middle of the road. It seems strange, until we notice a number of Palestinians and a police officer on the roadside and another who comes running from the road into the field. We stopped and went to see what was happening: a few Palestinians fleeing through the field to the 'Azzun 'Atma fence, chased by a police officer. We hear a shot, but nothing happens as a result. The police officer who ran along the road joins his pursuing colleague. The police officer standing next to the Palestinians is holding something that looks like a shiny, sparkling, silver pistol which he puts in their car. A Taser?
Meanwhile the men fleeing have disappeared into the olive grove, followed by the police officers. The group detained by the roadside (four young men and one older man) is gathered around the police officer, conducting some kind of dialogue with him. One stumbles; it looks like he has trouble walking. At one point he lifts his shirt to show his companion his back. Had he been hit by the Taser?
It’s clear that the young men went through a hole in the fence to the road trying to get a ride to work in Israel, without permits.
After 15 minutes, the pursuers returned empty-handed. A discussion is held with the youths who were caught; they give their IDs to the police officers. We decided to continue to 'Azzun 'Atma, expecting the group to be brought there. Meanwhile all the cars drove away, except for the police car and the one standing in the middle of the road.
06:45 'Azzun 'Atma – Many laborers are waiting outside; the line is short and advances rapidly. The revolving gate is finally working, allowing the soldiers to control the crossing and prevent congestion.
We didn’t see the young men who were caught. When we returned to that spot we saw them still standing there with the police officers.
07:15 Habla checkpoint – Many have already gone through; people cross in record time.
07:25 The children’s buses arrive and cross quickly. There seem to be more people than usual today, but it doesn’t slow down the crossing. Everyone’s smiling, saying hello to us; the occupation routine.
08:00 Eliyahu gate – Cars are being inspected; there is no line at the pedestrian crossing.
08:15 Falamya checkpoint – Quiet. Signs of the fire are still visible next to the repaired gate. A flock of sheep arrives, goes through without inspection. Carpets of hyacinths are in full bloom along the way – magnificent. A constant trickle of people at Central West Bank
The gate opened at 04:00 exactly.
Again there is a hole in the fence of the entry corridor to the installation – the old story. Organized interest groups make a hole in the corridor fences, and when they’re repaired and the metal used for the fences made thicker – they bring more sophistical tools to break through. When people can enter from the side, the congestion within the lanes becomes unbearable. Remember, in one of the previous times the fence was broken through there was a riot, people were injured and at least one man died (at the time, the Palestinians told us that two had died).
The Ecumenicals report that the women’s gate opened for exactly four minutes. Women arriving at 04:05 had to go to the main line. People outside on the Israeli side reported at 04:20 that everything was going smoothly and quickly. The Ecumenicals count (using manual counters) how many people enter the facility in half an hour. By 04:30 they’d counted 1118 people! They say that on Friday (1.3.13) the main gate didn’t open at all. No one knows why.
On the other side, the entrance to Israel, the flow of people exiting dwindled almost to nothing at approximately 05:00. And then a flow of people suddenly burst out and mobbed the revolving gate. The adjoining gate remained locked. Leora noted, correctly, that since we’ve been coming here that gate has never been opened for people coming out, even though the facility manager told us that when there’s pressure on the revolving gates, this gate is also opened. Leora waves at the security cameras, points to the locked gate – and, amazingly – it opens! Because she waved? Perhaps we sometimes actually do some good.
At 04:40, while we were still at the entry gate to the facility, we marked the time on a slip of paper we gave to a man standing next to the revolving gate. He came through at 05:15. Is that fast. And he even told us, proudly, that he went through the lane for the elderly… A man standing next to the revolving gate to Israel said he’d arrived with a young colleague for whom he’s been waiting an hour. His colleague came over to us about the same time the first man exited and said that he’d spent more than an hour inside! This was confirmed by the friend who was waiting for him outside. How could more than one thousand people enter the facility during the first half hour the gate was open, and exit only half an hour later? How many people can fit in at one time?
Another man asked us for help. He held a handwritten letter with an illegible signature and with no official stamps, written on the back of a photocopy of a document. The letter says the skin on the man’s fingers is worn; that’s the reason his fingerprints are unclear. The person reading the letter is requested to allow him to cross solely on the basis of his documents. He complains that, despite the letter, he’s detained every morning; that he went more than once to the relevant offices which gave him the letter he’s holding – can we help? We gave him the phone number of Kav LaOved’s representative, who speaks Arabic. Maybe they’ll be able to solve his problem…
We left at 05:30, since we saw that the difficult routine forced upon the Palestinians seemed to be proceeding in the usual manner.
Translator: Charles K.
We drove to the checkpoint after learning on Machsom Watch’s Facebook page about problems there. The checkpoint’s manager insists on calling it a “crossing.”
The checkpoint has been privatized; it’s managed by Modi’in Ezrachi (as are Irtach and Eyal); the Ministry of Defense supervises the security company. There are armed guards at the checkpoint, through which Palestinians cross into Israel. Like other entry checkpoints to Israel in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank, this has also been “improved” by a network of entry and exit lanes, inspections, revolving gates, a cafeteria and landscaping which sends the following message: We’re here to stay!
05:20 Nora and Varda arrive. The area is full of minibuses and buses. We manage to find a semi-protected parking spot with the approval of a security guard who shows up immediately to check us (and makes do with Varda’s ID card). A., the checkpoint manager, also comes over, greets us pleasantly and offers to show us the areas to which we’re permitted access.
We entered the sanctum sanctorum:
1. Final identification room, in which a computer identifies automatically the holder of the ID card placed on a surface outside the window, plus biometric identification. After the “OK” a person usually goes through quickly. Four booths are open. One of the employees warns someone in fluent and high-flown Hebrew that the computer has a problem reading his ID, and that he should renew it at the DCO, because it could be confiscated.
2. A room where people are physically inspected if necessary. The manager is proud that a separate room has been provided for this purpose so that people won’t be publicly humiliated.
3. A room where ID’s are taken and belongings go through a scanner – five booths are open. IDs are collected from a number of people and then returned, apparently all at the same time at the end of the inspection. That’s all we were permitted to see. We spoke to the manager in the plaza; he stressed the “Principles of Service” he established; he requires employees adhere to them. He says he checks from time to time, and that not more than five to ten minutes elapse from the time someone enters the facility until they exit. Once it took longer – between 30 and 40 minutes. The comparison to inspections at the airport comes up again and again; we try to explain to A. the real differences between the situations but it’s not clear we succeeded… The comparison has apparently been branded into the consciousness of all employees at these checkpoints/crossings; it’s very convincing and convenient for someone who wants to be convinced.
Anat arrived. We come out to talk in the plaza outside the facility, while A. continues to demonstrate good will (and in fact, compared to other checkpoint managers, he listens and responds politely while emphasizing that he’s aware that those going through to work are human beings…). Anat tells him that we came in response to complaints we’d received; at the same time an elderly man crossed complaining that the crossing hasn’t been easy recently, and that his ID had been taken this morning and he’d had to stand half an hour waiting to get it back. Anat mentioned the dangerous crossing on the main road; A. said that a pedestrian bridge is being discussed.
We spoke to Palestinians near the revolving gate at the exit. They told us that it takesfrom an hour to an hour and a half to go through. But, more important, said one Palestinian: “It’s insulting!!!” (the entire inspection process, he means)
The laborers flow through; the parking lot begins emptying. Workers returning from the night shift also arrive; I wasn’t able to see how they go through. One of the bus drivers explained that he transports all his passengers to Ma’aleh Horon (guess how much construction is going on there).
07:00 We left.
Translation: Naomi Gal
An exhausting and infuriating shift: ‘Anin Checkpoint was opened belatedly. At Reihan-Barta’a Checkpoint there was a constant crowded queue.
14:50 'Anin Checkpoint
About 20 people and four tractors are already waiting. Three people are praying on the side.
15:00 the checkpoint is closed, there are no soldiers. We called the DCO; they said they would notify the territorial brigade and they will send the soldiers. After a while we called again, they told us that the territorial brigadeinsured that soldiers will arrive soon. We called the bregade, they said they are up to date, there was a stone throwing incident nearbyand the soldiers are on their way to the checkpoint. Meanwhile more people arrive at the checkpoint.
15:30 the soldiers arrived, half an hour late, and opened the gates of the checkpoint.
One man told us that he has a special permit to cross at Shaked –Turah Checkpoint, when the ‘Anin Checkpoint is closed (this agricultural checkpoint opens only twice a week). Despite the distance - an hour and a half drive and 150 shekels for the fuel, still it is important for him to properly tend the 120 dunams (about 30 acres) of olives he owns.
16:00 everybody had crossed, including a family with a veiled mother and two toddlers. Everyone, including several children who were there, waited quietly and patiently. This is hard to grasp.
A rather older reserve soldier says that they arrived late to the checkpoint because children in Araka threw stones at the fence.
16:10 Shaked – Turah Checkpoint
There are all kinds of traffic lights and signs inside the checkpoint but no traffic. One woman crosses into the Seam Zone.
16:25 Riehan – Barta’a Checkpoint (seam zone side)
A woman-Instructor from Givat Haviva (a Jewish-Arab center for culture and education activities), leads a group of students from abroad, and asks us to tell them about MachsomWatch .
16:40 two windows are open at the terminal and there is no queue. This only lasts a few moments. One window closes because of a problem and immediately a line is formed. Every now and then they open the second carousel for workers who return from work in Israel and they pass quickly and with no checking. The passage of owners of work permits in the Seam Zone is slow. Most of the time there is a queue of about 50 people in front of the carousel at the entrance to the terminal. The people are tired and angry. We address one of the guards, he says that there is a hitch and “there must be a line.” We call CH, the head of the Checkpoint. He'd check what goes on.
The line is still in place.
One man tells us that yesterday morning they fired tear gas at the people at Irtach Checkpoint. He does not know why. His eyes were hurt. (In the morning they cross to Israel from Irtach Checkpoint [centeral west bank] and in the afternoon they have to return home from Reihan Checkpoint [north-west west bank.)
17:30 once there is hardly any queue we leave and go up to the parking lot. Facing us workers and families continue to arrive, going down to the terminal. We fear that a queue is forming yet again, but we do not go back to check.
Translation: Bracha B.A.
Shaked-Tura Checkpoint, 07:10
There is a little bit of light penetrating from behind dark clouds. School children are singing behind the container at the checkpoint and are begging Ruthi to take their pictures with her smart phone. We didn't know why they did not go through the open checkpoint. Later the car with the kindergarten children arrived and they drove through the checkpoint together. The soldiers peeked inside and let them pass through to their school in the village
Workers are coming out in the direction of the seamline zone with sopping wet clothes. They are angry that they were not allowed to enter the inspection room through the turnstile or to stand near it because the shed is six meters high (20 feet) and open to the wind and rain. We did not see the kindergarten children. They had probably arrived before we came. The right-hand lane for vehicles is not operating. (It had not been operating when we were last here two weeks ago). The inspectors' building is covered in waterproof plastic and they are relatively dry.
Reihan-Barta'a Checkpoint 07:45
We didn't see any trucks waiting to be checked. The lower parking lot is full. We stood under the shed next to the gate where people enter the terminal. Taxis let people off and they hurry in the rain towards the entrance. The soldier in the booth shouted at them not to run, but only once. It is not easy to remain outside in the pouring rain. We drank tea with ginger (good for sore throats) and waited for Amjar and his daughter to take them to a meeting in Kfar Kara.
Translation: dvora K.
14:55 A'anin CP
About 20 men and two women go through from the seamline zone, returning to the village. Three young men are detained. We hear a military policewoman asking one of them (dressed in a red sweatshirt) where he's been in the morning. We do not hear his answer. A few more farmers arrive and go through. The person who cleans the CPs, a resident of Tura, collects papers and remains of garbage on the side of the seamline zone and between the fences. He ties the garbage bag and asks who is in charge of the CP, is careful to tell the soldiers not to forget the bag when they return to the base. He explains to us that he does both his work and theirs.
15:30 The military policewoman lets the person with the red sweatshirt go. He decides to go through to the seamline zone (in the afternoon the traffic is only in the direction of the village of A'anin) and two soldiers run after him and send him to A'anin.
15:50 There are still two detainees. I try to find out what the problem is. The policewoman answers curtly, "There is no problem. Mind your own business and I'll mind mine."
16:10 The two detainees are allowed to go on their way, to A'anin. We also leave.
16:20 Shaked-Tura CP
There is some traffic - vehicles and pedestrians - from the seamline zone to the West Bank. A few go through to the seamline zone.
16:40 Reihan-Barta'a CP, Seamline Zone side
Two little girls are on the see-saw near the parking lot. Nice. With the workers we go down into the sleeve that leads to the terminal. About 30 people crowd near the turnstile at the entrance on their way back to the West Bank settlements. Three young girls and a little boy are sitting on the detainee bench. After some time we understood why. They were waiting for their mother with her veil and gloves.
Two inspection windows are open and that is really not enough. There are at least 30 -40 people near the turnstile at the entrance to the terminal at almost any given minute. Every person who goes through in the opposite direction to that of the workers, among them a student, a family, etc, from the West Bank to the seamline zone, delays the workers on their way to the West Bank. The people are tired and angry. One of them tells us that 'there is no such thing as more hate than here." He also says "a state of sons of bitches'. Sometimes they let people in in fives, sometimes in tens, and sometimes as many as the area in front of the windows allows. The system is unclear. There is a queue all the time.
17:10 They opened another window for those who have passes to work in Israel. They also opened a second turnstile at the entrance for them. That immediately shortens the queue, but after a short time they go back to two windows, and the queue gets longer.
17:25 For a short time, they opened a third window for those with passes to work in Israel. The window is closed again and the queue gets longer.
18:00 At long last there is no queue. We climb up again in the sleeve. Some more workers are going down to the terminal We do not go back to see the condition of the queue. We want to go home by now.
Translation: Yael B.
16:00-- Shaked checkpoint
People go in and out, as usual. A man stops by, asking for help in reaching an eye doctor in Jerusalem, as he's losing his eyesight. We give him telephone numbers of organizations which might be able to offer him assistance.
16:30 Reihan checkpoint
Again a line is formed because those getting inside are required to wait until the window assisting those getting out would be free. There is a line of about 60 people and suddenly the door is slammed closed and no one knows why, and the turnstile is idle as well. In a few minutes the door is re-opened and once again there is pressure and crowding at the dammed turnstile. Why does returning home after a long day's work hang on the whim of the person who opens and closes the door?
All of a sudden three windows were open. A "traffic usher", one of the security officers, directs those returning from Israel and from the Seam Line zone to the windows and the crowding subsides. As is turns out, there is more than one way of handling matters.
Translator: Charles K.
We spent most of the time driving through the villages, to show our guests the occupation – on the hilltops, the main junctions, in the Palestinian villages.
11:00 – We began at the southern Azzun Atma checkpoint, where no laborers are crossing at this hour. Like the checkpoints in general, this is also undergoing constant alterations “for the good of” the occupied population forced to cross through it. Sidewalks being laid, canopies erected…
We continued on Highway 5 toward Za’tara. Our guests saw the elevated road restricted to Jews, over the road from Zawiyya to Maskha. Farther on, outposts clinging to the hilltops above Brukin and Kufr a-Dik, biting into the locals’ lands; the Barkan industrial zone continually expanding and, of course, Ariel – the metropolis – a very long, narrow strip stretching to the horizons. We pointed out the guard towers and the metal bars permanently installed at the entrances to the roads leading to Palestinian villages. If the army wishes, the road can easily be blocked. We reached Za’tara, where there’s a flourishing kiosk belonging to the settlers; there are emplacements at each entry/exit of this central road junction. The one overlooking the turn to Highway 505 was manned. We saw no Palestinian cars detained.
We returned to Highway 5, through Kifl Hars, Hars, Bidiya, Maskha, to Hani’s house, penned in next to the settlement of Elkana. Having no way out, the conquered one has developed a sense of humor. So he’s written “The State of Hani” on the wall.
We drove through Kafr Thult and Azzun to Highway 55. It’s afternoon; the streets are filled with children returning from school.
13:15 Habla. A few people wait to enter Habla. They crossed a few minutes after we arrived. People go through in groups of five, “as usual.” A man leaving Habla gets stuck in the revolving gate and must wait for “the finger of God” to release him.
Our guests wonder why there’s a checkpoint separating people from their property (plant nurseries, agricultural land…). Who can explain the occupation’s logic…
13:35 – The school buses from ‘Arab al-Ramadin arrive. Here’s some more “logic” to explain – that young children must wait every day, twice, for an armed soldiers to come into the bus.
13:43 - The boys’ bus goes through.
13:51 – The girls’ bus goes through.
The only creatures thatshow any independence and refuse to obey blindly are the sheep whose owner tries to bring them through the checkpoint. Eventually they do what he wants.
14:06 – No more people are waiting. We left.
Translator: Charles K.
We left relatively late because the vacation and the heat slow life down considerably.
Sansana (Meitar crossing)
Everything looks normal at the Meitar crossing. Five buses on the Palestinian side await people returning from visits to relatives in prison.
As usual. Now Nahal soldiers are there. Everyone feels and mentions they behave more humanely than Golani soldiers.
Curve 160: Intensely active at the checkpoint. It’s very near the turn to the Cave of the Patriarchs; people are stopped on their way to and from the Jebel Johar neighborhood, or those walking on Salamiyya Street just because of its proximity.
A crew from Palesinian TV is filming a story, which makes "our forces" uncomfortable. Another officer. Another jeep. All coming to check, to find out who's here and what's going on. What are they doing? Finally, they permit the filming.
A local acquaintance who’s active in B’Tselem tells us that the Border Police soldiers detain people and make it hard for them without justification. Last Sunday they didn’t allow three girls in wheelchairs to bypass the revolving gate. All they had to do was lift the yellow gate. But why not abuse someone if you can do so? A boy about 8 years old shows us his injured finger, with stitches [see photo, below]. He says he was so frightened that he caught it in the revolving gate. Others describe their own, traumatic experiences.
A guy with a bicycle comes to the checkpoint. Every day he lifts them through over the yellow gate. But lo and behold, today the gate suddenly rises; he manages to retrieve them and bring them through the way you’d expect he’d be able to, without having to hoist them high as he usually does. But today eyes are watching – ours, the TV crew.
The B’Tselem activist tells us that last Tuesday afternoon the settlers climbed onto their roofs and began throwing bricks at people in the casbah.
IDF soldiers stood by them without intervening. What did bother our brave soldiers was the courageous person who filmed it. They yelled at him and chased him. He realized they wouldn’t calm down before they’d taken the tape. So he cleverly removed it, replacing it with one that was blank.
The soldiers caught and beat him while he said to them “Do as you will.” He held out the camera, but when they removed the tape and discovered it was empty they returned the camera with additional blows and curses. They didn’t arrest him. The tape quickly found its way to where it belonged and has already been shown.
Thus the entire world sees how IDF soldiers allow the settlers to rampage unhindered right before their eyes. We’ll send the tape as soon as we’re able to.
Tarpat checkpoint. Young girls are detained after they walk through the scanner. Soldiers rummage through they bags and release them immediately.
Translating: Ruth Fleishman
Photos from al-Jib CP:
Women back from work
Muhammad, who was arrested on the previous day (Saturday, 31.3.12) by a BP force, spoke of what followed the events of the Land day. His hands were handcuffed, his eyes were blindfolded and he was placed inside a Jeep that took him to Atarot base. "Boom, boom, boom- blows to the head…" he demonstrated with his fists and said that they accused him of throwing stones at Jews and that they warned him to never come back to work near the checkpoint: "Go to work in Ramallah, don't let us see you again near the checkpoint- they said to me. And my mother cried and waited for me here until nightfall. I don't throw stones. I have a baby and I need money to feed it".
And Hammed who sat by him showed the fresh injuries he sustained on his arm - beatings he received from soldiers, and then he pulled his trousers up and bared a thigh scared from bullet shots. "He has more like these on his back", said Muhammad.
El Jib checkpoint:
Being used to the fact that checkpoints prevent and restrict the passage from Palestine into Israel, while the entrance to Palestine is permitted with no inspections or delays, we were surprised to find out that at El-Jib checkpoint the entrance to Palestine also entails complications.
Tens of people stood cramped between two turnstiles in front of a soldier, whose body peeked out of the door of the post as he inspected each and every permit. A selection was made between the workers employed in settlements- who were allowed to return home, and others, such as the father of an ill child who was hospitalized at Augusta Victoria hospital, he sat all day long by his child's bed: "Go to Qalandiya", said the soldier to him.
"This checkpoint is only for settlements", the person on duty at the humanitarian line said explicitly.
As though for the sake of humiliation, the soldier's post is elevated higher than the body of the Palestinians entering the inspection zone, so they must stretch their bodies and raise the hand holding the permit over their heads. Those coming out of the checkpoint knock on the metal cover set on the slot for the IDs, and only once the soldier's attention is directed to them, a thing that might take several minutes since the soldier is engaged in a phone call or for any other reason, the door opens and the man or women enter a room where they go through a meticulous inspection.
Photos from al-Jib CP:
Women back from work