Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir
10.20 Tapuach Junction/Za'atara CO -- not manned, but two Border policeman were standing in the southern hitchhiking station in the direction of El Kuds and Ramallah.
10.30 - in the olive grove near Kusserin there was a fire and we saw black smoke. We saw an Israeli car parked near the edge of the road, but it didn't seem to have anything to do with the fire.
10.45 - Ma'aleh Ephraim CP - not manned - not now and not in the afternoon.
11.00 - Baka'oth (Hamra) CP - there is no traffic at this time, so we did not stop.
The walls of earth that cut the Jordan Valley off from the heart of the West Bank and has prevented the Palestinian population from realizing basic human rights such as education, medical care, earning a livelihood and contact with relatives - are higher again, after the rain flattened them a bit.
Gochya Gate, opposite the valleys, which was locked and bolted last year and prevented the Palestinians from getting to the West Bank, is open today. The reason became clear immediately -- there are army exercises in the area west of the gate and at this time, the army does not want to be bothered with locks and keys. We went through the gate and nobody stopped us. Palestinians who passed us asked us fearfully if the gate is open and if, near it, there are soldiers (who might confiscate their vehicles). The open gate shortens their trip by an hour and a half at least and saves fuel costs, for example for somebody who has to tow a container of water from the town of Tamoun.
Beyond the gate we saw many military units.and according to the Palestinians tanks on the other side of the hill are firing live ammunition and the people who live there are frightened stiff, especially the children. (Last week I saw the tanks getting organized there.)
Near the village of Atuf, about five kilometers west of the Gochya Gate, in Rass el Achmar, we visited the Uda family. They had no idea about our activities and had never heard of MakhsomWatch, but the father, the mother and the daughter welcomed us so warmly that we felt close to them. Until three years ago they lived on the rise of the hill to the north of their current home, but then the army arrived and destroyed their house. (We visited there immediately afterwards and reported on what had happened in full.) Representatives of the civilian authorities told them then that if they will live below, in the valley, they will be able to live in peace. The valley is problematic in the winter because it is a channel for the rain waters sweeping down from the mountain on the west. Every year the area is flooded and this washes away their compound of tents; sheep drown and mattresses absorb water and are wet through and through. And then, a year later, the army presented them with a decree showing that the house in the valley has to be destroyed. If they do destroy the house, says the father, we'll go up the hill again.
They tell us that during the week before, the army set up a CP on the path that leads to the Gochya Gate and blocked them for half a day. No one was allowed to go through. The people that live near the gate were surrounded -- the gate on the one side, and the CP on the other, and they could not move out of their house, none went out and none came in.That same week the army blocked the path twice for half a day each time.
The father is trying to sell 30 heads of sheep out of his herd of a hundred. Because of the drought he has no food for them. The fields are dried out because Israel does not give them access to enough water, and the skies are leaden. If he won't be able to sell them, they will die. The trouble is that everybody is trying to sell sheep in order to save part of the herd, and the prices are very low. The merchants, quite naturally, are taking advantage of their problems. And the Palestinian Authority, as usual, is of no help.
In Maskiyot, new villas are under construction. This is an additional extension after that of last year. In Homsa, on the other hand (east of the valleys) and in Yirza (west of the Tyasir CP) there remain families who have no shelter after their houses were destroyed.
13.10 - Tyasir CP - The passage is slow and tiring, the inspections very pedantic, in the vehicles traveling into the area of the Palestinian Authority as well. The passengers of some of the cars are ordered to get out of them and to stand up in a straight line to be inspected - including women and children.
Many military vehicles go through the CP to the west, and afterwards go through eastward. Later I read in the OCHA Report that the army was holding extensive maneuvers, including shooting with live ammunition, near the beautiful village of Aqaba, and has caused damage to commodities and to the fields, not counting the psychological harm caused to children and the old, and not only to them, because there is constant shooting right beside them.