Awarta, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Tue 1.1.08, Morning
Translation: Maureen A.
The first day of the new year; perhaps because public institutions are closed, perhaps because people are tired of going from place to place when they know when they are going to leave but they never know when they'll get to their destination, and there are those who say that there's a PLO event in Nablus - but, for whatever reason, the traffic is very light at all the crossings.
7:40 Za'tara Junction (Tapuach) -
There are only a few cars waiting to go through; 2 from the west, 3 from Nablus.
There are no checkpoints till Huwwara.
7:50 The Huwwara Checkpoint is completely empty, so we set out immediately for the Beit Furik Checkpoint.
8:00 Beit Furik Checkpoint -
Group after group of people from the village arrive at the checkpoint in order to go into Nablus; the checkpoint is working quickly.
There is no traffic out of Nablus.
7 cars are waiting to enter Nablus; today there's a slight change in the procedure.
They have to wait in line, then drive up to a certain spot a certain distance from the checkpoint, the soldier waves the driver to move ahead, halfway to the checkpoint the driver stops and gets out of the car, lifts up his jacket, and only then walks up to the soldier to have his papers examined; at times the soldiers go up to the vehicle and check it, too. Only then do they wave the next car on, to a point where the soldiers can see it.
An ambulance moves up to the front of the line and immediately behind it a small truck for transporting passengers which was next in line. The soldier comes closer and scolds the driver, sending him back to the line. Only after the ambulance goes through is the driver of the transit vehicle allowed to move up to the position from which the soldiers will wave him on. The drivers report a wait of about half an hour.
8:30 When we left, 7 new cars were waiting in line.
The soldiers ignore us.
8:40 Awarta Checkpoint - 4 trucks are waiting to enter Nablus and 3 are waiting to leave.
The soldiers are checking them and the line is moving.
8:45 Huwwara CP
The checkpoint is empty, very few people are entering Nablus, very few leaving. When we arrive, Commander D. comes up to us, introduces himself and tells us he will take care of any problem; the DC Officer, R., gives us the number of his cell phone and tells us to call him about any problems that arise, because "our aim, the DCO and you women, MW women, is to help the civilian population".
There's a lot of traffic of police cars and army vehicles; when we ask the soldiers what's going on, they reply that they don't know.
There are relatively a lot of soldiers at the checkpoint; because there's nothing for them to do, they are fooling around. (Later on we will learn why there are so many police cars and the large number of soldiers.)
9:00 The DCO Captain arrives, smiles at us. The checkpoint is still practically empty. About 10 people are crowded together, go through quickly, so even though all the men have their belts in their hands when they leave the checkpoint, they are smiling. Today they weren't harassed.
Very few cars are leaving Nablus; the security check is very thorough; the x-ray vehicle is ready - people's belongings from the cars and from the porters' carts are put on it to be checked.
One of the men is waiting near the solitary confinement area; in answer to our question, he says he's waiting to meet someone who is supposed to come from Nablus. Five minutes later, he wasn't there.
9:30 There are about 10 people waiting to go through the checkpoint, there's one line open and the passage through is quick and relaxed.
Traffic remains very light.
9:40 We are about to leave when a stand-still is called - no one leaves, no one enters for a square kilometer around the checkpoint. The roads are blocked, as is the checkpoint. The Military Police close off the roads. We then learn that the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staff are on their way down from Mount Bracha, from which they had been observing the area.
After this visit, the Minister of Defense announced over the media that "the checkpoints and the road blocks are important for security".
10:00 We left.
Burin/Yitzhar Junction - the checkpoint is manned. About 12 vehicles are waiting to be checked, most leaving Nablus.
Tapuach Junction - 7 cars from Nablus and 2 from the west.