Beit Furik, Huwwara, Mon 31.12.07, Afternoon

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Macki S., Merav A. (reporting)
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

Translation: Maureen A.

13:20 - From Highway 5 we can see that the army has once again constructed the big  dirt barrier on the road leading from the Barkan Industrial Area to the villages  of Bruqin and Dik. We turned into the road and went as far as the barrier. Even though the army had installed an iron apparatus which was meant to allow them to close off the road at will, someone must have decided that that wasn't effective enough; like last time, the road is blocked by three barriers of earth and stones that completely block the passage of vehicles. The distance      between the first of the three and the last is about 300 meters. In order to leave the village, the inhabitants of the villages have to drive up to the road-block, and then climb up and over each of the barriers, walking the distance between them, in order to then wait for a cab on the other side. That may not be a problem for young people and workmen, who have to make their way through the road-block every day, but for the elderly, the ill and mothers with small children, it's a mission impossible.

From conversations with some of the inhabitants of the villages we learn that the army claims that cars on the road leading to the settlements of Paduel and Elei Zahav were stoned from the village - though the entrance to the village from that road has been blocked for several years. In other words, the building of the road-block now is just another form of collective punishment. It's obvious to one and all that blocking roads is not going to prevent cars from being stoned. The people we spoke to also told us that the stoning which brought about the new road-blocks took place at 1:00 a.m.. 
A female inhabitant of one of the settlements was driving along the road, and had an accident. She claimed that the accident happened because kids threw stones at her. The inhabitants of the village were left wondering exactly which kids were wandering around outside at that hour.

We spoke to the IDF "Humanitarian" Centre and asked why the road-block had been constructed and when it would be removed. D. from the Center investigated for us and the answer she got from the brigade was that it was constructed after a case of stoning and would be removed when the brigade decided to remove it. At least in this case they knew that a road-block had been constructed, not like in other cases where it seemed that the right hand had no idea what the left hand was doing.

The workmen we met there told us the familiar story of the Palestinian labor market. Most of the inhabitants of those villages look for work in the Barkan Industrial Area. In order to work there they need a work permit, which is very often hard to obtain. Employment of Palestinian workers in the plants in this area usually goes through Palestinian work contractors, who take advantage of the workers - if the Israeli employer pays the Palestinian contractor 25NIS per hour per worker, the worker himself gets only 10NIS of it. The contractor gets the rest. Due to the difficulty in obtaining a work permit and the lack of other places of employment, people don't complain, even though the current situation is illegal.

14:15 - Za'tara Junction -
There are no special orders. There are hardly any vehicles.    Those that do arrive go through the security check relatively quickly. The Checkpoint Commander says there are no special orders.

14:30 - Beit Furik -
The morning shift asked us to check out what happened vis-à-vis a young man who was detained there from early this morning; the soldiers had said that he would be detained for 6 hours (see morning shift report 31/12). When we arrived, he wasn't there.
The checkpoint is almost empty. The taxi drivers tell us that today there's a "good checkpoint", after a couple of days during which there were delays during the security check, vehicles waited more than three hours in order to pass through the checkpoint on their way into Nablus in the morning. The soldiers said that the slow security checks during the last few days were because of the terrorist act near Hebron, "so it won't happen here near Yitamar, too". The connection to checking cars entering Nablus is not really clear. Once again, it seems that the difficulties the army causes the Palestinians are just another kind of collective punishment.

15:00 - Huwwara CP -
It's relatively quiet at the checkpoint; the lines are not extremely long. People who came through the men's lines report that it took them an hour to get through the checkpoint; women and older people are going through relatively quickly and are standing and waiting for those stuck in the men's line.

The soldiers who are checking the vehicles entering Nablus stop a Red Crescent vehicle carrying medicine. They remove a small bottle from the vehicle and check it very carefully, communicate over their wireless sets, over the telephone, trying to find out whether the bottle is "kosher" or not. The CP Commander tells us that they've received a special warning as to "dual-usage substances" in vehicles entering Nablus. It looks like they are after materials that can be used to make explosives. However, the soldiers at the checkpoint have no way of differentiating between innocent medicines and substances that are potentially "dual-usage".
When we left, an hour and a half after the vehicle was detained, the Red Crescent vehicle was still there and the soldiers were still waiting for a lesson in pharmacology.