Eyal Crossing, Eliyahu Crossing, Wed 1.7.09, Morning
Eyal Checkpoint (North Qalqilya) Wednesday, 1.7.09 Morning
The first days of Operation of the Eyal Checkpoint by a Private Security Company
We arrived at the checkpoint at 04:06.
At 4:13 we began to see the first workers coming out of the passage to the parking lot. We immediately went to the observation point at the entrance on the Palestinian side. Before even a minute had gone by two people came up to us, one of whom introduced himself as Shimon, the manager of the checkpoint. He made it clear to us that we were not allowed to stand there because it is a military area and asked us to leave. We argued a while about our right [to be there] but in the end we decided tin light of the complaints in the last few days about the privatization to observe workers exiting from the Israeli side, and to talk with them in the parking lot. The manager of the checkpoint closed the gate beyond the open area at the checkpoint and we could no longer enter the open area.
Workers Coming through the Checkpoint
The situation has gotten worse over the past week. See report from 5.7)
Two sleeves were open and operating. Most of the crowding was at the exit from the sleeves in front of the inspection points. There were 7 inspection points were manned (three booths with two computers in each and another booth with one computer) and the inspectors worked efficiently. We were told later by the Liaison and Coordination Administration that there were to be 8 inspection points the next day when the last worker would be trained and put to work.
Workers went through the checkpoint quickly – 40-45 people and sometimes as many as 50 came out each minute. Two workers that we know reported to us that it took 50 minutes for them to go through from the moment they arrived in Qalqilya until they came out in the parking lot on the Israeli side. (The previous day, which was the first day that the checkpoint was privately operated passage took an hour and a half.)
Workers are Meticulously Checked
Workers who came out told us that the younger workers were gathered in one room, sometimes seven at a time or 30 and their ID cards were taken. The workers outside had to stand and wait for them, since they had to travel with their employer to their workplace together. When they came out they said that they were inside for more than 50 minutes or even more than an hour. This held up their departure for work as well as that or their fellow workers.
However, there were no complaints about people being made to undress in the rooms, but two workers complained that they were made to pick up their shirts to be checked when they passed through the machine..
Workers whose Permits were Revoked
There were 8 workers on the other side of the fence whose permits had been revoked, supposedly because their employers had revoked them. One of the employers who was there denied this and said that he had not revoked anyone’s permit. We tried to call the officer at the Liaison and Coordination Administration who was present at the checkpoint at the time, but he did not have time to deal with the matter and check the validity of the claim. The workers had to wait for the Liaison and Coordination Administration to open at 8:30, but they would not get to work today.
The X-Ray Machine
There is new equipment at the checkpoint! - An X-Ray machine! The Palestinians complained bitterly about it. People with food are the ones who are asked to pass through the machine. They describe it as a glass room over which a soldier supervises the entrance and exit by opening and closing the doors. The person going in stands in the middle of the room at a designated place that is marked and according to them, a machine circles around their head and photographs them. They complained that the rays from the machine are dangerous to people’s health and may harm their food as well. Workers who worked or are working in the hospital claimed that in hospitals people are not allowed to be exposed to rays from these machines.
One of the workers complained that he had a heart condition and asked not to have to go through the machine. The soldier refused to exempt him and told him that he would be exempted from the machine inspection only if he brought a medical permit.
Bringing in Food
A worker stood and filled up a bottle at the faucet with great difficulty until it was only half full because the pressure was so low and it was not possible to stand the bottle up. The workers crowded around and complained. They complained bitterly that things were better when the soldiers were there, and they should bring the soldiers back!!!
According to the Palestinians, they cannot bring in either water or frozen water with blocks of ice or cola. Some of them said that they could not bring in honey in a plastic jar, a jar of olives, or a small bottle of olive oil. Some claimed that they also did not allow sealed cans of tuna fish or sardines, cans of cola (or bottles). We asked what they did with the food and they claimed that they were sent to throw it away or that the [inspectors themselves] threw it into a pile. Later we saw Palestinians who brought cans of cola and bottles of carbonated soft drinks in a small cooler with blocks of ice. During the reports we called the Liaison and Coordination Administration at Qalqilya and they told us that there was no limitation on canned foods or anything else – the only thing that was not permitted was frozen water. If the machines beep when things are passed through they are not permitted and this is perhaps the reason why metal cans are not permitted. The border crossings officer whom we spoke to later told us that the person responsible for the crossings in the Ministry of Defense had visited the Eyal Crossing that day and said that bottles of water were permitted..
Checkpoints are open on the way to the Qalqilya checkpoint: According to workers who came from Nablus the checkpoint at Deir Sharaf and Huwara were open for free traffic, including workers who were coming from Jenin. The last people to arrive from Jenin arrived at the border crossing to Israel in less than an hour.
We left at 07:00.
07:05 – Eliyahu Crossing.
We did not have time to stay long. We spoke briefly with workers coming through. They complained about lengthy checks – they wait for more than an hour to get through to the seamline zone. A taxi driver from Ras Tira in the seamline zone who brings workers from the seamline zone to the West Bank and back for a living spoke with us. He complained that each time he brings passengers who are workers with permits to go through the checkpoint to the West Bank and back he is required to pull over and his ID card is taken to be checked, despite the fact that the soldiers know him.