Qalandiya, Tue 22.3.11, Morning
On the first day after the three-day closure for Purim, there are long lines for entering the three cage-like “sleeves” when we arrive at 5:40 a.m. Men were squashed up against each other within the sleeves. Some younger men climbed up to a spot directly above the revolving gates at the end of one of the “sleeves” (presumably queue jumpers) and struggled to drop down into one of the gate’s vertical slots when it began turning. That proved to be no easy feat and was really quite dangerous to life and limb, but no one ordered them to get down and stand in line like everyone else.
A man who approached us commented that he often goes through the checkpoint at Tulkarem, which is preferable to him because PA policemen keep order on the Palestinian side.
After we make contact, the Civil Administration duty officer explains to us that one of the stations for checking documents is not working, so that the pace through the checkpoint is slower. He adds that he is monitoring the amount of time it takes to get through. We do so, as well, by taking the phone numbers of two men waiting to enter the sleeve and later calling them to see whether they are out yet. Our conclusion: it took an hour to get through the checkpoint that morning. We share this information with the CA officer.
The humanitarian gate is opened periodically until about 7:30 a.m., when pressure on the “sleeves” has decreased. At about 7:50 the CA officer calls us to say that he is returning to talk to us. Ten minutes later another officer turns up instead, and once we point out that a pregnant woman is standing in one of the sleeves, he opens the humanitarian gate for her. Others who are entitled to use it go through, as well.
At one point we learn that a man had collapsed in one of the sleeves that we could not see from our vantage point when the incident occurred. We are apprised of this by three volunteers from the World Council of Churches, who did witness the incident and later sent us photos (attached). The WCC volunteers claimed the man was in the sleeve when he collapsed; the CA officer claimed he had not yet entered it. Either way, one of the photos shows that the man was tended to by uniformed Israelis. The officer told us that the man was a heart patient and had been sent to the hospital. Since he was no longer present, we could not establish why he had not tried to go through the humanitarian gate.
When we went to check on the pace of the cars moving through the checkpoint, we met a young Palestinian keeping count of the number of cars per hour. He gave us his employer’s phone number, and when I called the employer explained that his company has been contracted by USAID to do a count because it is funding the paving of two roads from Qalandia northward into the West Bank.
We left at 8:15, by which time the lines no longer extended beyond the sleeve, there was no crush, and pace seemed to be faster.