Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Thu 27.12.07, Morning
Translation: Maureen A.
7:30 The Checkpoint between Israel and the territories (The Shomron Gate) is as usual.
There are a lot of policemen here, probably to check for stolen cars.
7:43 Marda is open, Zeita is closed off by concrete blocks.
7:50 Za'tara Junction - 45 vehicles are waiting in line towards Huwwara.
8:00 Burin/Yitzhar is open.
8:05 Beit Furik -
It has never been so bad during our shift. The drivers get out of their vehicles about 50 meters from the Checkpoint, walk the 10 meters to the soldiers, hand over their documents, are questioned and then return to their vehicles to wait until the soldier feels like waving them through. It takes each car more than five minutes to go through; there is really a line of about 20 vehicles leaving Beit Furik, each waiting for more than two to three hours since this morning. There's only one line open. Esti calls the IDF Humanitarian Centre and they promise that the situation will improve in a few minutes.
The DC Officer arrives and things really do improve. We hear the DCO officer on the phone; he is complaining about the soldiers' behavior. He reports that they are cursing the local population and acting rudely, checking those passing through the checkpoint extra-carefully etc. We have the feeling that the situation at the checkpoints has gotten worse since Annapolis.
8:40 After we see that the soldiers have calmed down a bit and are letting the vehicles through at an acceptable pace - and that they have even opened up another line, we see one of the soldiers let fly at a driver who didn't wait fo his signal and crossed the road between Beit Furik and the Checkpoint. He forced (by yelling at him) the driver and the other drivers who were lined up behind him on the road to go back up to the entrance road to Beit Furik. This took a few minutes and it looked like a real riot was starting, with the soldiers yelling at the Palestinian drivers. It looked like something was going to explode from the soldiers' side and it was really a frightening scene. Obviously, no cars were allowed through during this time. Three soldiers were standing opposite the drivers, with their loaded weapons pointed at them, yelling and screaming at them.
A couple arriving from Nablus on their tractor were stopped, not allowed access to their land.
The DC Officer left a representative at the Checkpoint, who was supposed to make sure that the soldiers really did speed up the security checks. During the riot, he called one of the army bases or one of the district commands and told the soldier who was to write up the report that the soldiers only let the man through, claiming that it wasn't logical that the woman would work the land. As time passed, we found out that the soldiers had come here from service in the Gaza Strip. It looks as if they've brought Gaza to the territories; if they keep up this kind of behavior, it really will be Gaza here.
As a sequel to their wild behavior, the soldiers ordered the driver who crossed the road in his car before he got the signal to do so, to stand near them, 50 meters from the Checkpoint and wait. They simply punished him. After that, the soldiers began to work at a decent pace.
8:50 Huwwara -
The soldiers at Huwwara are from the same battalion as those at Beit Furik.
The difference between them is enormous - everything here is calm and quiet, no lines. The officers talk to us, and we tell them about their friends' behavior. Their reaction: "They probably didn't receive the right briefing." The owners of the stands in the parking lot tell us that the soldiers have ordered them to dismantle their stands. In talking to the soldiers, we learn that they are trying to remove the stands because they are illegal and that they are trying to get permits for them. They hope it won't take too much time.
9:20 Za'tara Junction - the traffic jam has eased up, 10 vehicles are waiting.
On the way back, Marda and Zeita are in the same state they were in when we passed this morning.