Ma'ale Efrayim, Shomron Crossing, Tayasir, Za'tara (Tapuah), Tue 15.2.11, Afternoon
Soldiers serve in the role of traffic police. At the Liaison & Coordination Administration no one answers our phone calls.
We left later in order to reach the Tayassir checkpoint when the labourers return, usually a time of considerable crowding. However between 16.00-1700 very few people passed.
12.50 Shomron gate
A police car in front of the checkpoint. No delayed persons seen.
13.10 Zaatara junction
No waiting line from the Hawara direction.
13.30 Maale Ephraim checkpoint
No soldiers seen. At 17.00 it was manned. We didn't wait to see whether cars are turned back westwards, as we had seen in the past.
13.50 Hamra checkpoint
A 16-year-old is detained. His father is waiting with him at the entrance of the checkpoint. They say the soldiers have taken his ID card half an hour ago. The local commander says it’s been only 10 minutes. We waited with them another half hour and no explanation for the delay was offered. It finally turned out that the boy has an ID card although he was not 16 years old yet (16 being the minimal age for receiving an ID card) and that raised the soldiers' suspicion. The father explained that the school issues ID cards to everyone in the boy's class, even if they are not yet 16.
Traffic at the checkpoint is sparse. Vehicles going west (to Nablus) were not checked while we were there, and passed freely.
People coming to the valley from the west: as usual all passengers descended, and walked to be checked. They report they undergo whole body X ray examination, despite the health risks involved. Of note, this checkpoint is situated between Palestinian territories, an hour's drive from the Israeli border.
14.50 Gochyacheckpoint (iron gate)
A tractor arrives from west, towing a trailer with some sheep, and the 2 occupants wait for the gate to open. A jeep stops by the gate. Some minutes later another jeep arrives and the gate is opened. The first jeep was probably on the lookout, to prevent the tractor from bypassing the gate. It then turned out that both boys on the tractor did not have driving licenses and they were not permitted to pass.
We wondered since when the army serves as traffic police, but they were evasive on this, and in any case didn't let them through, even though they knew the boys' family and they are allowed pass the gate on foot.
We called the Liaison & Coordination Administrationin Jericho, and received no answer. As it turned out that the boys are from Abu Sacher's family, so we called him and he promised to come. Meanwhile it was time to close the gate, and someone with a driver's license drove the tractor through the gate, but was not permitted to go through and had to return, leaving the tractor on the eastern side of the gate, while the 2 boys remained on the western side. The whole situation seemed rather ridiculous.
The jeep's commander, a friendly Druse sergeant, explained that passage through the gate was allowed only to certain people and tractors. All the others who want to cross the imaginary line separating the valley from the rest of the west bank have to use the Hamra checkpoint, some 30 kilometers away.
15.45 – Tayasir checkpoint
The commander of the post welcomed us, as he did our colleagues before. He offered us beverages (which we politely refused) and explained the checkpoint's routine. We learned that the point of checking those entering the A zone (going west) is to apprehend Palestinians sought by the police or the general security services. This is why they examine papers, and why they have the passengers in minibuses and taxies leave the vehicles so they can check that no one is hiding under the seats. He admitted that the soldiers chiefly protect the inhabitants of the settlements. We held a long conversation and he seemed interested in us and our views despite our disagreements.
We stayed till 16.50, and noted that traffic in both directions was minimal. The line never exceeded 3 cars, and some of the time the road was empty on both sides.
17.00 – the well below Maskiot settlement
We checked whether there were further attacks on the shepherds by the students of the pre –military college, and were told that since the attack 3 weeks ago he serttlers did not return.