Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Wed 26.12.07, Morning
Translation: Suzanne O.
Summary: A jam of tens of vehicles at Za'atra/Tapuach, the police are carrying out a ‘hunt' of Palestinian drivers. Slow inspection and long hold ups for vehicles at Beit Furiq. At Huwwara it is routine, particularly because of the assistance of the DCO. At Huwwara there is an ear splitting squeal at the turnstiles.
There are 13 vehicles from the west, a huge jam of 70 - 80 vehicles from the north even though there are three inspection lanes. There is a new unit here.
A number of vehicles are turned back which raises the question as to whether there are traffic limitations. We could not ask the team so we called the Centre. The answer was negative, but regarding the first car we were told that its driver tried to by pass the queue. We did not see it but, at any rate, turning cars back is an act of punishment. After it has been held up for a long time already the police then stop it at the u-turn. Again a long hold up ending with a fine. After that the police stop almost every Palestinian car, those coming from the south as well, particularly private ones and give out fines. It is a ‘plague' day. On our way to Huwwara we contacted the Centre again about the huge jam and asked for a DCO representative to be sent there at once. We also complained about the police assault.
It is unstaffed but we notice another police car lying in wait for Palestinians. On our way back we saw the police car in action. As we said, it is the police day. We warned Palestinian drivers so that they could pass the warning on to their friends.
There is a new unit here too.
There are 15 vehicles in the queue in the car park.
The inspection in the vehicle lanes is agonisingly slow. Only one lane is functioning. The two soldiers inspecting take a break after almost every vehicle entering the checkpoint. The driver is asked to turn the engine off at a decent distance from the soldiers, get out of the vehicle, do the ‘belt dance', and then the soldiers accompany him to the vehicle to inspect it. This is the first time we have seen such a practice at Beit Furiq.
At the pedestrian lane the roadblock commander only allows one person at a time to cross the turnstile. To effect this he puts a soldier to guard the turnstile in spite of information he got from a taxi driver and from us that there is an excessive queue of cars at the upper car park. Our repeated request, from a distance, to talk to him is disregarded, he does not turn us down rudely, but says, when the pressure dies down he will come over to us, but how can the pressure end if the work is inefficient? We calculated that the last car in the car park would take at least an hour to get to the roadblock...
We called H. and R., from the DCO but were forced to leave a message. Finally we were forced to call DCO HQ and asked for someone to be sent immediately to help. We were told that they are aware of the situation and they will try and that the unit is new. That's the problem.
(H., only got back to me in the evening and apologised for not picking up the message. He said that he had been at the roadblock and will see that the soldiers get further training.)
When we arrive the traffic is fairly heavy at the pedestrian crossing in the direction of the exit, but there is no pressure. Two checkpoints function. The DCO representative, A., tells us that it had been very crowded earlier in the morning but he had helped the new soldiers to clear the queue. According to him the roadblock commander really cooperates with him. He added that because of the festival season, Muslim and Christian, there are less personnel at the DCO, therefore the roadblocks are not staffed continuously in spite of the fact that a new unit has started its tour of duty.
At this time the car lane is clear, within a few minutes a car arrives. It is inspected slowly. A taxi is held up for 15 minutes. A dog handler is present and the x-ray machine is functioning.
A very elderly woman is taken out of the queue and to the inspection/detention cubicle. We ask the soldier standing outside what is going on, but he has no idea. A., from the DCO is not in sight to check it out. The woman is released immediately following a body inspection. Her expression says it all.
The turnstiles (the magnometers?) at the roadblock unceasingly sound an unbearably loud squeal- really good for those crossing the roadblock, but also for the good of the soldiers working there for hours. Have the IDF not heard of the irreparable damage caused to ears. This is not the first time we have come across this, but complaints should be laid again.
The roadblock on the way to Huwwara is staffed. When we left there were two cars in the queue. In addition - a police car waits around the corner.
There are a number of cars queuing at the roadblock.