Bethlehem, Fri 11.12.09, Morning

Claire A. (reporting)

Duration:  8:45-10:15Summary: "shortage of manpower".

Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300: as soon as I arrived I heard a commotion and shouting on thePalestinian side whereas the Israeli side was nearly deserted and silent. Three inspection booths were functioning with only a trickle of Palestinians entering and passing through. We were told that the situation on the Palestinian side was appalling, with a crowd waiting outside.

A woman soldier I approached explained: "it's their fault; they're pushing each other and quarrelling among themselves." She walked away, totally unconcerned.

 Three members of Machsomwatch came on tour and were sufficiently distressed by the noise. A phone plea to the Humanitarian hotpoint followed. The number of passers-through increased but still there were only few compared to the normal number. The response to a further phone call was:"Spoken with them, they say that there are simply loads of people and we're short on manpower." People emerged angry and weary.

 I approached the security guard, imploring him to do something to improve the situation – but to no avail.

The Magav (border police) officer-in-charge arrived, only to reaffirm the manpower shortage excuse. He added: "it's because of the passers who quarrel and push each other (on the Palestinian side). We have only two sleeves (lines) and no more can be opened today. We are short of manpower".