'Awarta, Burin (Yitzhar), Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Mon 13.4.09, Morning
Translation: Suzanne O.
A Border Police spot roadblock at Beita Junction holds up buses and taxis (and this is less than 5 km between the permanent roadblocks of Huwwara and Za'atra). We talked to Abu Rokon about it and he promised to deal with it. This should be followed up. At any rate it is worth stopping if any vehicle is held up at the junction.
The Shabak holds up the same bus full of passengers to 'have a chat' with two of the passengers at Za'atra Junction (apparently to recruit informers).
It took the bus an hour and a half to make the journey, of about 5 km., through 3 roadblocks between Huwwara and Za'atra.
The roadblock commander at Za'atra demands our personal details (apparently as a means of frightening us). We agreed only if he gives us his details which are as follows: Captain Yaron Cohen, personal number 5293725.
Kifel Hares, Marda: open; Zeita: closed.
There are 6 cars from the west and 8 from the direction of Nablus. 2 checkpoints are open.
There is a Border Police jeep opposite Beita. We waited for 5 minutes beside it; not one car was held up. (On the way back it will be a completely different story.)
At Yitzhar Junction there is an army jeep. No car are detained. As we couldn't park so we moved on.
7:25 - 9:10 a.m.
There are 25 cars from the direction of Nablus (we drove a little way up the road leading to Bracha Settlement so that we could count the cars). 2 checkpoints are open, the x-ray machine is working. It takes on average 2 minutes to inspect each car. We checked the time it took a car that we monitored to cross: 38 minutes.
It takes a long time between the completion of the inspection until the next car is beckoned to approach. The passengers alight before the car gets to the soldiers and the driver gets out to open the car boot.
The roadblock commander comes over to us. We complained about the long waiting time. He is unable to open an additional checkpoint. However, later on, the waiting time was shorter.
We talked to him about the stallholders too, who continue to be abused. He says he is carrying out orders, he tells them to vacate the area and, if they do not obey, he calls the police or the Border Police. Only three stallholders are left - two selling tea and coffee and one selling bagels. Later on the youth with the sweets arrives.
From where the cars are we can see a queue of about 50 people at the pedestrian roadblock. Later the queue reduces to about 30.
At the pedestrian roadblock there is a queue of 25 men. The 'humanitarian' queue is concealed from where we are allowed to stand. There are two checkpoints and the inspections are very quick. There are no shouts emanating from the loudspeakers either. We timed a man waiting in the queue: it took him 8 minutes to cross.
There is a cat and mouse game between the taxi drivers and the soldier In the inspection area.
There are now only 6 men in the queue. There is no queue at all in the humanitarian lane.
Back to the car area; there are over 20 vehicles.
There is a vehicle with white number plates with red numbers (perhaps belonging to the Palestinian Authority?), it is sent back to Nablus. We saw a few vehicles like this in Awarta which were VIPs.
We timed the waiting time at 15 minutes.
2 cars had to put their baggage through the x-ray machine.
There are 15 cars in the queue.
A bus driver complains that every time he finishes an inspection at Huwwara he is held up by a jeep at Beita Junction for half an hour.
9.10 -9:30 a.m.
There are at least 14 vehicles from the direction of Nablus (as many as we can count from the road just before the junction). Most of them are lorries.
VIPs form a separate queue and one of them tries to push in front. The soldier has a socialist point of view and he sends him back and lets the lorries through first. VIPs have only their ID cards inspected. Within 5 minutes the DCO representative, S., comes out and lets all the lorries through without being inspected and gets rid of the queue.
There is a military jeep but no detainees.
9:35 - 9:55 a.m.
A bus is detained. We stop. The bus driver says he has been detained for half an hour.
They detain a taxi arriving from Huwwara. The passengers ask for our help - they have appointments at a Jerusalem hospital and they are already late. I go over to the jeep. The soldier (commander?) asks for documents. I return to the taxi. They give me a document in Arabic. I return to the soldier: "where is the date?" I show him the place where the date is shown. "Where is the time?" I was unable to decipher it. I return to the taxi. They give me a sheet with an appointment for a C.T. and show me where the time is written. I return to the soldier. He asks another soldier to decipher the Latin letters (the Palestinian Ministry of Health). And then he agrees: another two minutes and the taxi is released to go on its way.
Two men in their 40s are taken out of a bus and the driver is ordered to drive on. The men need to get to Ramallah. 5 minutes later they are released. They have missed the bus and lost their fares. Who knows when another bus to Ramallah will come by. They wait for a taxi. All the taxis from Huwwara are full.
We spoke to Abu Rokon about this phenomenon - that 2km away from Huwwara roadblock and 5km from Za'atra roadblock the Military Police set up their own roadblock and hold up taxis and buses arbitrarily, with no security reason, just to make life hard for the Palestinians. He says that he is in contact with the Military Police and will deal with the matter. It is important to continue to monitor the situation because this practice has been going on for a long time.
9:55 - 10:25 a.m
There are 37 vehicles in the queue from the direction of Nablus. There are 3 checkpoints. We called Abu Rokon. He says that there is a warning and this is why the inspections are drawn out.
The bus that was held up at Beita is held up in the car park. All the passengers alight.
2 jeeps are parked near. We see a youth of about 16 being put into one of them. We are not allowed to approach. Some 7 minutes later he is released and returns to the detained bus. Beforehand another passenger is sent to the jeep.
The bus to Ramallah is released. We saw it at Beita Junction at 9:35 and it has already been held up for half an hour. Now, 50 minutes later, it goes on its way. From Nablus, a distance of 5km, it has been held up at 3 roadblocks for over an hour and a half. At Beita two passengers were taken off and who knows when they will reach Ramallah.
The roadblock commander demands our personal details (apparently to scare us). We demanded that he give us his details first. And indeed the exchange of details took place.
When we left there were 8 cars from the direction of Nablus.