Hamra, Tayasir, Mon 7.1.08, Morning
Guests: two lawyers from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), and Z., YM
Summary: this was not a MW shift in the usual sense. The purpose was to hear council heads and farmers from the north of the Jordan Rift Valley, to evaluate water problems in the area and to understand whether, and how, ACRI could intervene for the benefit of the residents. In addition, because of the tragedy in the area (report below), we dealt with that for most of the day, and were under a strong sense of tragedy, so observation time at checkpoints was very much shortened.
Mohand Dragma, a 19 year old Beduin, was killed yesterday (6.1.08) on a hill next to Tayasir Checkpoint, after he apparently picked up a grenade or shell that soldiers had left on the ground when they finished their training exercises. According to preliminary reports from Yesh Din, nine Palestinians have already been killed in that way, among them five children.
The youth's body was transferred by the army to Abu Kebir Pathological Institute. The family, originally from Tayasir and now living at the junction of Route 578 (Allon Road) west of Tayasir, is of course completely distraught. Two years ago, their tent took fire and their 12-year-old daughter was burnt to death. We visited the encampment. The parents were at the time in Tayasir, supported by the extended family, and their three children - aged 10,13, and 15 - greeted us. They seemed so lost, lacking understanding of what had happened to them and alone...
Family members asked me to help speed up the release of the body, because respect for the dead called for a fast burial. But it appeared that the body was in an unrecognizable state and the Israeli Pathological Institute required that the parents undergo DNA testing. Where? At Abu Kebir (in Israel), of course. With the usual mindlessness they explained to me: "What's the problem, let them take a taxi to Abu Kebir, it's only a matter of money." Beduins, stunned by the death of a son, not knowing a word of Hebrew, never having moved more than ten kilometres from their encampment...
I was in touch with a police officer named Hana, who was very sensitive to the situation and made sincere efforts to help. After clarifications, we got an answer that the DNA tests could not be done in hospital in Jericho or Nablus (Why? It's a simple test, requiring just some saliva...), and they must travel to Tel Aviv. Finally, because of our pressure and perhaps because of the guilt feelings of the army's, the police decided to supply a vehicle that would take them to Abu Kebir from the Maale Ephraim Police Station, and bring them back. The mother's brother asked to accompany them, because she was in a bad physical and mental condition and he wanted to support her, particularly because neither parent could speak Hebrew. But no, that was too much, after all he didn't have a permit...
The next day, Tuesday morning, when he brought the bereaved parents to Maale Ephraim Police Station, it was clear that the mother was not in a fit state to travel to Tel Aviv, and then - wonder of wonders - it suddenly ensued that the test could be done at the police station in Maale Ephraim! All this time I was in contact with the mother's brother, and together with Hana, the police officer, we pushed and pressured for the test to be speeded up. At 17:00 a Magen David Adom ambulance brought the body to Tayasir Checkpoint. I made sure in advance to have a DCO officer on the spot so there would be no transit problems, neither for the body nor the family. That was it. The family could begin to shed tears over their son, who had paid with his young life for the army's indifference and carelessness.)
I will not describe the meetings with the village representatives, especially because most of the time I was on the phone regarding the Beduin youth, but three points that do concern us arose:
1. Swift transit between the north of the West Bank and Israel - great easing of transfer of goods, but forbidden foot traffic.
2. At Tayasir Checkpoint (and hamra, for that matter) fraffic only allowed for vehicles registered in the name of a valley resident. There are valley residents who are not registered, or the vehicle is registered on the name of a brother, and these vehicles encounter problems.
3. When the vehicle is not registered tothe driver, he is prohibited from passing at the checkpoint. But what can be done when two men are partners in a truck, registered in the name of one of them, and the second one also wants to transport (mostly agricultural) goods? The prohibition is not permanent, but sporadic, dependent on the soldiers and their moods, so people say, and this is indication of arbitrariness...
Visit to the el-Hadidia tribe
The Beduin tribe that was driven away from its site, after its tents and animal pens were destroyed twice, and two water tanks were confiscated (in the heat of summer), has returned to 50 metres from its place, and so far has not been bothered. After they paid a fine, the army returned the water tanks and the tractor that towed them. Now they have the option of going to Ein Shibli, beyond Hamra Checkpoint, to get water.
A Mekorot Water Company pump, a few metres away, at the spot where the tribe's well was before the occupation, now draws water for Jews only.
10:20 Maale Ephraim
No Palestinian vehicles.
In front of us is an Israeli car with a few yeshiva students, apparently friends of the soldiers at the checkpoint. We wait about ten minutes till they end their friendly conversation, with no possibility of bypassing. These are apparently the rules here.
10:50 Hamra Checkpoint
Three vehicles waiting to pass westward from the Valley to the West Bank. In the opposite direction, many people (passengers) wait for cars that have not yet passed inspection (Nablus direction) while they were forced, as usual, to cross on foot.
13:45 - 14:30 Tayasir Checkpoint
No lines. Occasionally a car comes from the west (during our stay there were none from the east). People alight and wait under the roof, 40 metres from the inspection hut. They are called forward from there one at a time. Traffic is relatively quick, but the taxi drivers say the morning shift delayed them for hours and there were long lines.
A soldier approached us, with long red earlocks and a huge skullcap. Slightly shyly he asked who we were and why have we come. He was joined by the checkpoint commander, secular in appearance (no skullcap), arrogant, and hostile. He informed us that he was a "brutal soldier" and didn't understand why we came to watch those that we have reported as "brutal soldiers." I asked him who called him that, and he responded: "You have called my friend Kobi a brutal soldier, and he is my friend, therefore I am a brutal soldier." Obviously happy with his response, he continued: "You have come to console the Arabs?" He giggled: "We are very sorry that the Beduin boy was killed." He and three soldiers who gathered around broke into evil laughter. "Let them learn," he added, still pleased with himself, "not to enter firing zones and not to hunt for IDF grenades."
I moved away in order to calm down.
16:30 Hamra Checkpoint
As in the morning, few vehicles waiting but many pedestrians forced to alight on the west side and cross the checkpoint on foot, and are now waiting for the cars to come through.
Night is falling, and it's getting cold.