Hamra (Beqaot), Za'tara (Tapuah)
*Gochia gate stands in the middle of nowhere and leads to nowhere and never opens.
*At Khalat Makhoul they’re still recovering from the last demolition, until the next one.
*Sheep thieves run rampant in the Jordan Valley and don’t differentiate between Jewish and Palestinian sheep. But the police does.
*It turns out Israelis can go through the Tayasir checkpoint! (Under certain conditions)
*Why has the entire northern Jordan Valley been declared a (deadly) firing range?
09:45 Tapuach junction/Za’tara checkpoint
A police vehicle is at the junction, facing toward Jerusalem. It’s not clear what they’re doing. A second police vehicle arrived, they talked and drove off. We asked and were told it was a “routine operation.” Recently there have always been two Border Police soldiers at the settlers’ hitchhiking station in the direction of Jerusalem. We haven’t seen them stopping Palestinian vehicles (we stop there only briefly) and it’s not clear whether their role is to protect the settlers waiting for rides.
10:20 Hamra checkpoint.
Light traffic at this hour.
This is the gate which is positioned in a wasteland, in the middle of nowhere, from which a ditch and an earthen berm stretch along the road to the Hamra checkpoint. Why the ditch and the gate? It’s not clear. Perhaps only to make the lives of Palestinians living on both sides even more difficult? And perhaps it symbolizes the separation of the West Bank from the Jordan Valley (which will remain in Israeli hands forever)? Until two years ago it was supposed to open three times a week for short periods in the morning and afternoon. The vegetation now covering the path leading to it proves it hasn’t opened in many months. But even where fences and roadblocks are erected life continues and people find ways to bypass them.
Visit to Khalat Makhoul
We visited the A. family, whose home was recently demolished by the army. Donations from humanitarian organizations (including MachsomWatch members) help them recover from the destruction. R., in her final month of pregnancy, welcomed us. Last time she told us she might have trouble with the pregnancy but today she said everything is alright.
12:40 Tayasir checkpoint
This time we carefully read all the clauses on the red sign erected at the entrance to the checkpoint and discovered to our surprise that Israelis are not forbidden to cross here (unlike at the Hamra checkpoint, for example). Soldiers told us that Palestinian Israelis can go through in Israeli vehicles. Non-Muslims, like us, for example, need a DCL permit.
An empty truck stands at the checkpoint. The soldiers say it was stopped ten days ago with 60 sheep that had been stolen from the Rotem settlement. Some of the sheep died. Our Bedouin friend tells us this version: the truck was stopped in the middle of the night at the Hamam el Malih junction, where the police were lying in wait. Only the driver was caught; the other thieves managed to escape. The Bedouin said there have recently been many thefts, also of cattle and sheep belonging to Palestinians in the area. Their sheep haven’t been found.
The D. family told us that construction has begun on a mosque in the village of Bardala, without a permit. Why without a permit? It’s obvious. The village is located in Area C, under Israeli control, where permits are not issued for Palestinian construction, only permits for Jewish construction, in the settlements. So anyone who wishes to build must break the law. The Civil Administration arrived (part of its job is to ensure the residents’ welfare), stopped the construction, and confiscated the contractor’s bulldozer. Is it legal to confiscate the bulldozer, to punish the contractor, without any trial? Our friends say the army can do whatever it pleases because there’s no law here to limit its activities.
Warning: Firing range. Three or four years ago concrete posts started to appear throughout the northern Jordan Valley, carrying signs which read: Firing Range/No entry. Today we heard an interesting story about why they have been erected: a few years ago a Palestinian boy from the Jordan Valley sued the state of Israel and demanded compensation for being injured by unexploded ammunition the IDF left in the field following maneuvers. The state’s representative argued that since the entire area is a firing range, it’s clear that there will be unexploded ammunition there and the child had been properly warned. The judge asked to see the area and found nothing indicating that it was a firing range. Since then the concrete posts serve to cover the state’s ass in the event of future suits.
The unexploded ammunition scattered throughout the area (hundreds of shells) is located by an international organization headquartered in Ireland. It notifies the IDF which is then supposed to neutralize it (the army won’t allow any foreign organization to blow them up). But the army’s budget for this activity is too small, so the area fills with unexploded ammunition which kills 3-4 people each year, all of them Palestinians, most of them shepherds or children.