Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
04:00 The gate opens exactly on time.
From a distance we heard shouting. When we approached we saw it was unusually crowded and congested. Many young men congregated at the women’s gate. We saw it wasn’t open and asked those in charge on the Israeli side to have it opened. It opened. Most of those on the women’s line were men. When we asked them why they aren’t waiting on their line they pointed to the main line which was crowded, congested and longer than usual. Meanwhile, the women on the women’s line were being pushed and crushed by the young men who had sneaked in. Some women we spoke to told us they’d been waiting since 03:00 but had given up and left the line. One said this was the second time she hadn’t managed to reach the gate on time and lost two work days; she feared she’d be fired. Those who insist on remaining in line are squeezed against the fence.
But those on the main line don’t allow the men from the women’s line to slide in near the crossing because they’ve also been waiting since 03:00, as some told us. The shouting and yelling continued the whole time.
04:23 The shouts diminish slightly, and perhaps the congestion as well, but not on the women’s line.
04:50 Each time the main gate opens the roars of those crowded in front of it increase. Simone, from Austria, and Julia, from Sweden, EAPPI volunteers, report an ambulance was called to the Palestinian side; someone lost consciousness in the crush, apparently a heart attack. Many people we spoke to later complained of cuts, wounds and broken ribs caused by the pushing.
04:50 Simone and Julia said that about 2300 people had crossed by this time.
Despite the congestion, only six or seven windows are open at the checkpoint itself,
05:30 From time to time we checked what was happening on the women’s line. At this hour no more women are waiting, but there’s been no significant improvement in the crowding and congestion here. Julia and Simone’s count had reached 3844 people who’d crossed. They estimate that about 5000 usually go through.
05:40 The line begins shortening.
Requests by Palestinians at the checkpoint:
Open the gates at 03:30 on Sunday instead of at 04:00, especially during this period when more agricultural permits are being issued.
Merchants are now allowed to cross at 06:00 instead of 07:00. They arrive as early as 04:00 and block the lanes for the laborers. The laborers request that one or two separate lanes be set aside for merchants so they won’t make the other lanes even more crowded than they are already.
A different arrangement is urgently needed for the women’s crossing.