Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 18.12.11, Afternoon
Translator: Charles K.
About two weeks ago a deep ditch was dug from the Hamra checkpoint to the Gochia checkpoint, a distance of a few dozen meters, west of the Alon Road, along the route that was flatter before the ditch was dug. The ditch is more than 4 meters deep, too narrow for a vehicle to pass. They placed boulders where they were unable to dig. It’s impossible to cross north of the checkpoint because of the topography (cf. photo in the report). The result of these obstacles is that the Gochia checkpoint, which is open only three times a week for half an hour in the morning and in the afternoon is the only way for anyone living east of the road to access the area to its west. In recent months, the Gochia checkpoint has almost never been open. Up to now it has been barely possible to get around the ditch, and you risked punishment. Now that’s no longer possible at all.
Despite the new, deep ditch, the Gochia checkpoint remains closed all the time. At the hour it was scheduled to open a tractor pulling a wagon full of hay was waiting, and only after an hour and a half, during which we telephoned the DCO every ten minutes, did it open. The driver and five small children waited two hours waited for the checkpoint to open, until 5 PM, and the checkpoint remained closed. It’s unclear why the army invested so much effort and money to dig the ditch just to prevent a handful of Bedouin from reaching their encampments in the area or the town of Tamun west of the road, and doesn’t even bother to open the checkpoint even for the limited amount of time that was promised. Malice? Or obtuseness? Aren’t people involved here?
Za’tara checkpoint (Tapuach junction) – 11:40
Vehicles coming from the direction of Huwwara are being inspected. Five cars on line. Two military jeeps at the checkpoint, but no Palestinian cars have been detained. There’s a soldier in the observation tower at the junction.
Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint – 11:55 – Soldiers are present. No cars. As usual, young settlers wait for rides in the soldiers’ booth.
Gitit settlement – We can see that the agricultural area has been expanded. New sown fields south of the built-up area. New poultry houses have been built recently.
Hamra checkpoint – 12:15
Three cars wait for people coming through the checkpoint on foot. They arrive pretty quickly, holding their belts in their hands. A contractor who goes through every day says that it hasn’t been bad recently.
Vehicles travelling west, to Area A, aren’t inspected, but stop and wait to be waved through. A new yellow sign was recently erected in front of the checkpoint, announcing that ambulances don’t have to wait on line.
Maskiyot settlement – A new fence has been erected around the settlement, and they took advantage of the opportunity to double its area northward. Until a year or two ago, there was a pre-military program for religious youth here, with a few buildings to house students, staff and their families. After the withdrawal from Gush Katif, a number of families arrived who’d been evacuated from one of the localities there. They built them the villas on the ridge. The new fence may signify an intention to expand the settlement.
When we visited the Bedouin tents on the other side of the road (where the blue tent belonging to young people from Maskiyot once stood), we were told that three days ago settlers from Maskiyot, along with the head of the settlement’s security who is notorious among the Bedouin, fell upon the women. They chased away their flock, searched the tents (looking for what?) and then left. The residents of Maskiyot frequently abuse the neighboring Bedouin, and no one stops them.
We met a mobile clinic on the road to the Tayasir checkpoint – an ambulance with a physician and nurses. They come from Tubas, where there’s a medical center, and visit the Bedouin encampments twice a week. Later we saw them at one of the encampments, the ambulance parked on the road, a number of woman and children waiting to be treated.
The ambulance driver complained that they’re delayed an hour or more at the Tayasir checkpoint while the medical staff and ambulance undergo a lengthy inspection. When we were at the checkpoint we saw them going through quickly toward Tubas. Was it because we were there? Or because they were headed to Area A? Inspections of people going in that direction are faster anyway.
Tayasir checkpoint – 13:20 – 14:30
The checkpoint was empty during most of the first half hour.
We remained in the car to eat lunch. The commander and another soldier approached us (curiosity), asking whether we need help. Then the shift changed and when we later went over to the pedestrian checkpoint the new commander (who seemed also to be new to the area) approached, announcing that it’s a closed military area, etc., etc. Finally we compromised, and remained halfway up the hill.
As usual at the checkpoint, vehicles are inspected only from one direction at a time, so lines form from the other direction.
14:15 – Fifteen minutes passed before any vehicle on line from the east was called up, and then they started going through quickly. The taxi drivers collect the ID cards ahead of time, which makes the inspection go faster. The line of five cars was gone in five minutes.
A closed truck, also on its way to Area A (under Palestinian control), is carefully inspected. They remove the canvas cover, a soldier climbs up to inspect. It was carrying empty plastic containers for agricultural produce.
14:25 – A car coming from the west is detained. The driver argues. It turns out that he moved forward for inspection without having been signaled to do so. Then his vehicle is carefully inspected. He didn’t receive any additional punishment, perhaps because we were watching?
15:05 Gochia checkpoint
Cf. the main points, above. We telephoned Zaharan, the DCO crossings officer, every ten minutes. He contacted his representative at brigade headquarters; they tried to find out what was happening, made repeated requests, and each time were promised that someone was on the way to open the gate, but no one came. We kept nagging. We had to leave at 16:15 because of commitments. We gave the tractor driver Zaharan’s phone numbers, and ours, and took his. That’s how we found out that the gate finally opened at 16:30.
Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint – 16:35
Soldiers are present. The checkpoint is empty.