Nablus

Dec-3-2003
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Watchers: A.C. ,E. M. D.
B.

Summary: A gate with three opening times at Mes'cha.

The check-point at Za'atara has been removed. Long,

slow-moving lines at Huwarrah (both sides), rude,

violent soldiers, pointing their rifles threateningly

at the Palestinians and losing their cool. A new

officer from the Matak who was helpful.

I had heard that there was now a checkpoint at

Mes'cha, and so we went to check and found the report

true. There are two gatesinfo-icon on the road to the village

forming part of "separation wall". The gates are
open

three times a day: from 06.45 to 07.15, from 12.45 to

13.15, and from 16.45 to 17.15. When we got there,
the

gates were open and the soldiers! were not checking
or

in any way interfering with people passing through.

Alongside the gates a sort of market had developed,

with people buying and selling mattresses and other

items in the half hour that the gates are open. If

something happens at night, then the gates are not

opened. I think it's worthwhilestopping off , on the

way to or from Hawarrah, to see what's going on here.

The watch started off well-- the checkpoint at

Za'atara (Tapuah) had been removed. How great it was

to see the cement blocks standing there to no purpose

and the whole area apparently quite quiet ;every now

and then a vehicle or some people on foot came past,

and looked around as if they could not believe their

eyes.….

But at Huwarrah, there was quite a different story,

the place was popping with life (if one can use such

an expression about what goes on there!). At the

southern end, quite a long line for a Wednesday; not

that there were so many ! people, but rather because
the

six soldiers there were checking so extremely slowly.

The boys with the carts wanted us to ask the soldiers

to let them through, and of course the soldiers

refused . There were six of the lads waiting , and

not one was allowed through. Some 10 men had been

detained there since 8 o'clock in the morning. When I

approached one of the soldiers on their behalf, he

shouted at me that he would leave them there as long

as chose, even all night! He was not checking their

documents, he was quite deliberately simply detaining

them on purpose. To take one example: a student from

Nablus with a student card: "He comes here every
day,

"the soldier said. "Let him learn to get a
permit"

"And if he doesn't get one?" "Then let him not
come

here again!". All in all, the soldiers were very
rude

and insulting. I tried to phone Bissan and got

someone else in quite another sector, so he said.

Eventually, the Matak put me on! their man, Amit, at

the northern checkpoint.

But in the meantime a cart owner at the southern end

had refused to leave the checkpoint and there was a

confrontation between him and the soldiers who were

threatening "we'll break your arms and legs for
you

if you don't move off!" But he refused to budge
until

they returned his cart, which they had confiscated.

It was just terrible to see four soldiers screaming

at him and threatening him and the lad, all the
while,

standing there and insisting "I want my cart back!".
I

stood close to them and have no doubt that but for

our presence there they would have beaten him up,
and,

as it was, it was clear that they were finding it

very difficult to control themselves. And what was

his crime? He wanted to cross the checkpoint! I

promised him that I would try to talk to Amit and

since there several other instances of carts being

detained, and the like, we asked him to come over to

the sou! thern checkpoint. Within 10 minutes of his

arrival, all the carts that had been held up went

through, all those men who had been detained since

the morning were freed and we saw him intervene in

quite a few cases were people had been refused
passage

or detained. But there was no way that the lad whose

cart had been impounded could get it back! Still, he

did manage to extract a promise from one of the

soldiers who undertook to be there the next day and

return it to him then. We reported the "deal" to
Amit

and we shall follow it up with a phone call

Hawarrah north: as with the southern end, the
soldiers

here were rude, shouted all the time and were

insulting. The very narrow passage there had been

made even narrower with coils of wire so that those

coming through had to slither along the steep

slope, something that was especially difficult for

women and the elderly. They had completely closed off

the road to the passage of pedestrians . It was very

crowded and every now and then the soldiers would
lose

grip in the face of the mass of people opposite them

, rush at them threateningly with their weapons,

screaming hysterically and shouting like madmen.
Amit,

by now back at the northern end, was the only one to

keep his cool and talk like a human being. He

didn't always get his way and from time to time even

he got edgy. But he never shouted like the soldiers

did.

There was one incident in which a man wished to cross

with his six-year-old son in his arms. The child was

obviously very sick, his head was lolling backwards,

he was very pale and seemed about to faint. They had

no permit and the soldier sent them back. Our

intervention did not help. "They all say they're

sick!" the soldier said. "This kid will blow
himself

up in Tel Aviv tomorrow and what will you say
then!"

The father pulled back the child's clothing to show a

huge surgical scar on his stomach, covered by a giant

plaster. It was just awful to see the father begging

the soldier, who continued to say "no!". A
few

minutes after we moved away, he let father and child

through! How bitter it was to see this!

At one point, when Edna approached an officer, he

screamed at her: "Shut your mouth and get the hell
out

of my sight!" -- a good example of how the
behaviour

practised in relation to the Palestinians has its

effect on behaviour towards Israelis too. And we can

assume that it will just as easily cross over the

green line, too. One of the terrible things at the

checkpoint (both ends) now is that at least two, and

sometimes more, soldiers stand all the time pointing

their rifles at the waiting crowd. Our requests that

they not do this went unanswered or else elicited the

answer that they were only pointing at the

barricades. One of the soldiers even insisted on

squinting down his telescopic lens at the people in

! the crowd. There are women, children and elderly

people here and this is an especially fearful and

humiliating sight.