Beit Iba, Jit, Thu 28.2.08, Afternoon
There did not seem to be any extra collective restrictions enforced in the area of Nablus today but we never did get a straight answer--not from the commanding officer, not from the Army Humanitarian Hotline, and not from the DCO.
Beit Iba was especially crowded today. Hundreds upon hundreds of pedestrians passed through during our shift. At any one time there were at least 100 pedestrians waiting in line from the direction of Nablus and at times there were close to 200. The young men waited about a half hour in line (16:35 – 17:02 and 16:55 -17:30). The MP's in the checking booth were very rude and nervous and often shouted at the pedestrians. "Move already. " "I'm sick of you." "Get going, get going". There was no place to lay belts or to stand without shoes. When belts and shoes were demanded to be removed, the belts had to thrown on the ground and people had to stand on the filthy ground in their socks. The pedestrian area was noisy with the ringing buzzer of the metal detector and the shouting of orders by the soldiers. It was also tense, crowded, and disorganized. Not only are the political and social ramifications of a checkpoint in the territories overbearing but the structure itself is far from "user friendly." It seems to create problems rather then solve them. The Commander was not in control of his soldier's behavior and although he seemed to have good intentions, he may have been overwhelmed by the immensity of the job. At one point the MP accused us of having gone up on one of the buses being checked and having gone through the turnstiles. This was not true. She also complained that we were smoking and eating in her face. She called the police at around 17:20. They arrive at 17:49 check our IDs, tell us the complaints of the MP, return our IDs, release a bus driver who is being detained for a suspected "forged" ID, and leave at 18:03. The side line (for women and older men) had over 60 people on line most of the time. Their wait was about 10 minutes (16:05 – 16:12, 16:24 – 16:32, 16:33 – 16:40, 17:07 –17:17, 17:21 – 17:35). The checking of the side line was laborious but when it got too long, the checking was speeded up and people were waved through for a few minutes. Simply a matter of luck.
At one point when the side line was the most crowded, a second selection was done and people with babies in their arms were taken out of line. However, Zachiria's mother (Zachiria is a Palestinian from Jit who works for Rabbis for Human Rights and Physicians for Human Rights) who is very ill and can hardly walk tried to pass outside the "humanitarian" line because of her condition and was not allowed any short cuts. When we complained to one of the soldiers he agreed to let us pull her out of the line but he won't let us go in the area "beyond the white line" in order to look for her. This happened at 16:15. The pedestrians coming into Nablus were checked quite thoroughly. This seemed unusual since we've often seen just a random check done. We have no explanation of this. There were as many as 30 in line (16:33). At 17:10 there were 20 on this line and the last in line waited 8 minutes. There were 7 detainees during our shift. Several were there when we arrived but we did not notice them at first. The detainee area is hidden from our direct view when the shed is full of people, which it was most of the day. It is possible to see the detainment area when climbing the stairs toward the "humanitarian" building but because of the way the detainees were sitting when we arrived, they were not visible to us. One detainee was being held because he had something suspicious in shoes which he was carrying in a box. A higher officer arrived at the CP and released him. He was held for a half hour.
At 16:30 a man was on the side line with his wife and when he was told to go back to the regular line, he refused. He was held in the detainee area for a half hour and then was told to go and wait at the back of the young men's line. It took another 35 minutes before he got to the front of the line and finally passed through the CP. Four detainees were young men who had tried to go around the CP because it was crowded. They were held from an hour to an hour and a half and then were sent to the back of the long line. The seventh was the bus driver mentioned above who was accused of having a forged license. He was held for an hour before the police came to release him.
When we were about to leave at 18:00, 2 more detainees arrived. At the peak of the traffic jam coming into Nablus there were 30 vehicles in line(16:48). We complained to the commanding officer and to Amit at the Humanitarian Hot line. It seemed to help. From Nablus there was less traffic—an average of about 8 to 10 vehicles on line at any one time. The waiting time was around a half hour in both directions.(15:56 -16:21 to Nablus, 12 on line;15:56 – 16:22 from Nablus, 6 on line; 16:27 – 16:53 from Nablus, 10 on line;16:33 – 17:06 to Nablus, 15 on line; 17:06 – 17:24 from Nablus, 8 on line; 17:10 –17:25 to Nablus, 9 on line). The checking of each vehicle going into Nablus took from 30 seconds to 4 minutes. Checking of each vehicle from Nablus took from less then a minute to 3 minutes. There is now a red light and moving barricades that go up and down at the vehicle checking area. The traffic from Kucheen was sparse, maybe 2 or 3 on line at any time, but they had to wait for around 10 minutes before any one paid attention to them.
The area of incoming traffic was very intense. Because of the long line of vehicles going from the checking booth all the way back to the taxi area at 16:48, the taxis couldn't enter or turn around without blocking each other. There were beeping horns, shouting, and cutting in and around each other. In the middle of all this 2 army vehicles were trying to make their way into the CP. All this created a feeling of impending danger. Fortunately it passed without incident.
We heard numerous complaints from bus drivers about the long wait on lines making it impossible to do a number of runs during the day thus cutting sharply into their dwindling incomes. They seemed especially distressed today. A feeling of hopelessness seemed to prevail.
There were no surprise checkpoints on the way nor was Jit manned when we passed at around 18:30.