Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Fri 2.8.13, Morning
Regular stream of persons crossing, but the impression is of fewer than last year. No long lines formed, and people were not compelled to stand for long in the sun.
Increased presence of Palestinian security was evident this week, active in the management of crossing; they directed those refused for further help with the DCO or a higher ranking officer, or sent them back. This prevented the confrontations between border policemen and young men which had been fraught in the previous weeks.
Those refused crossing were, as usual, in the age group of 12-40. It seemed that the people checking were not aware of the option of letting 13-16 year-olds through on ad hoc estimates, as per instructions published on the site of the liaison for activities in the territories. The commanding officer checked carefully, but the order had not been conveyed to all those checking. In a few cases, we succeeded in enabling some youths under 16 to cross.
Another problem arose with youths who arrived with permits for family visits. Some were stamped in Hebrew to the effect that the permit is not valid on Fridays and Saturdays, some had no stamp at all. A police officer explained that the missing stamp was a mistake due to the large number of permits issued (large??), and that the purpose was to reduce crowding in the mosques (crowding on Saturdays??). After our intervention, and on reconsideration, 2 youths in this category were allowed to cross.
The story of "maluchia" (a leafy green plant for cooking):
A Palestinian woman and her son carrying two bags of maluchia wanted to cross. The DCO officer said this was not allowed because it was a commercial quantity. We, together with a UN person, told her that after cooking, the content of these bags becomes reduced to the size of 2 small bowls. More officers arrived, considered deeply and were inclined to yield but then one of them noticed a bag the boy was holding. The contents of the bag consisted of numerous plastic toys in their original wrapping. "This is too much" the officers declared, and the woman had to turn back. One of the UN observers said: "They check the bags on the magnometers, don't they? So what's the problem?" We had no answer to his question...