Abu-Dis

May-29-2003
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JERUSALEM DAY

We saw three idle border policemen on the way down to Abu Dis and
parked up the hill near the opening. The transits do not take any
illegals. One woman begged the chauffeur of a car full of
schoolchildren to take her along, but he refused. All people
without blue ID’s board a bus and risk the border police checkpoint
at the square down the road. The bus driver is fined 200 NIS and
the illegal passengers are herded up the road towards the Mount of
Olives where they are in for a long wait.

On the other side of the fence the hooting taxis try to make
U-turns. Fathers in private cars drop off their children who board
the bus on the Western side to get to school. The fare to Abu Dis
(a long way down) was 1.5 NIS, but we asked the driver to continue
only with us to Sawahre and he charged 20 NIS without waiting for
other passengers. He told us that he pays the owner of the car 80
NIS for his shift and keeps whatever he earns above that
sum.

The Container, or kiosk, was dismantled two weeks ago. On its place
thirty Palestinians were kept within a tightly closed circle of
coils of barbed wire (“like sheep”, one of the bystanders
remarked). About 15 minutes after our arrival all were released and
sent back.

The five border policemen refused to talk to us and when we
insisted refused to give their names. One of them called Tsilli a
betrayer. The commander in charge was Nabil Ellul, nr. 767640 and
the jeep number 611124. He turned his back on us and discussed the
matter with his superior who told him that we had to move 50 metres
away from him and that he didn’t owe us any explanation. Complete
closureinfo-icon, no one was allowed to pass not even humanitarian cases. A
driver who supplies medicines to hospitals all over the West Bank
had left Nablus at 6:00 AM in the morning and described how he had
passed eight checkpoints on the way and now was turned back. He is
in possession of papers, which are valid even in times of curfew,
but here no one wanted to listen to him. An ICRC-jeep had a similar
story. Some trucks had been waiting to return after delivering
goods in Bethlehem for the past two days and had spent the night
there. Two physicians from Bethlehem on their way to an institution
for handicapped children in Ramallah fled when the border police
jeep approached, fearing punishment for having talked to us. Only
the garbage (a “Jewish contractor”) was allowed to cross, as
reported already yesterday.

After some fruitless telephone calls we finally reached the
Commander on Duty (Haviv is on vacation) of the Unit of Beit
HaMoshel in charge of the region, Raji Ali, tel. 068-633652. He
promised to come over in ten minutes and indeed arrived within
twenty minutes. The soldiers who overheard our conversation
disappeared down the road and chased the idling trucks away in the
direction of Bethlehem. Also a dozen yellow cabs that had been
waiting at the bottom of the path leading down into the valley were
turned away. The stream of pedestrians going down stopped
immediately. The roadblock was unmanned and people who live nearby
came to report to us on abuses (beatings, smashing of windshields,
etc.) None was prepared to testify - they are all afraid. The
numbers of the jeeps of cruel border policemen are 611124 and
22249.

Raji Ali, was pleasant and immediately ordered the coiled barbed
wire to be moved along the hillside (to prevent people from going
down), so it could not be used to fence in human beings (PLEASE
check!!). Also, he gave instructions for the two (still remaining)
humanitarian cars to be let through. He told us the name of the
commander and said he would instruct his men re proper behavior
towards us.

On the way back we were informed that the workers held up early in
the morning where still held along the main road to the Mount of
Olives. About twenty men were sitting (in the shade, admittedly)
along a wall and were called up one by one to provide the commander
of the three border policemen with their particulars. He filled in
a long form for each of them to sign. This procedure took about ten
minutes per person. He said he was awaiting the arrival of the
officer in charge who would check the papers and decide on their
release. It was after 10:30 and fearing road-closures because of
Jerusalem Day, we did not stay to await further developments.