Tuesday, 16.10.07, AM
05:45, Bethlehem CP. Passage was quite smooth. By 07:15, all was quiet both sides. Two men were refused passage, no reasons given. The female soldier at the checking post was quite rude, talking on the phone throughout.
08:10, Ezyon DCL. 30 people, many more than usual. Until 09:15, 15 people came out, all but 3 "GSS denied". Most had all the necessary documents (i.e. valid magnetic cards and permits). The denial was not accompanied by reasons.
Qalandiya – A-Ram Area
Sunday PM, 14.10.07
15:30, Qalandiya. Traffic relatively light. At the entrance, a resident of Qalandiya Refugee Camp complained that the toilets recently fixed at the northern entrance to the CP were closed. He was sorry for all the people who arrived at the CP from faraway points during Ramadan, and could not make use of the toilets. Why make life so difficult for the Palestinians? he asked. 2 passageways operating, one not very efficiently, as the two soldiers sitting behind the shatter-proof glass took long breaks.
At the DCL, 20 people were waiting, some since early morning. They had a variety of the usual problems, and must spend a large amount of time to receive the desired permits (if at all). At the vehicle passage, aside from soldiers and employees of the civilian security company, were many policemen. One soldier said that they were escorting a workman who had come to fix several things. We saw many cars filled with families, parents with little children strapped into the back seat, off to visit their families across the "border."
Vehicle traffic generally flowed freely. But at about 16:40, everything came to a halt and resumed only ten minutes later. Apparently the soldiers had just conducted a security exercise, while the holiday traffic behind the barriers just built up.
17:00, Bir Nabala CP. We stood in a line of 25 cars. Passage took 15 minutes. A 50-year old driver of a Transit taxi was called "donkey" by one soldier, and began shouting at him. He was then told to pull his car over to the side, and all his passengers (but one young woman) were required to get out and stand in the evening cold or walk to their destination, several miles away. The driver's ID papers were confiscated by the commanding officer as he was subject to "re-education" for lack of respect for the soldiers. The papers were finally returned at 18:15, after many phone calls to the Humanitarian hotline, and the driver continued on his way, picking up the passengers who had been waiting faithfully somewhere in the dark. As we left, we counted 38 cars waiting to pass. Happy Holiday!
Monday PM, 15.10.07 14:00-17:30
Anata. Almost deserted, it is still the holiday and schools are closed. The cage has been moved to the north and the earth mound with the observation point has disappeared. Major digging works are being carried out south of the CP. A yellow cab driver told us that occasionally there is a roaming Border BP CP at the camp's exit, but nothing permanent. He lives in Hebron and had been to Nablus in the morning and was still trying to find people to take back. He had been stuck 4 hours in Hawara.
Leel. We were almost stopped, but when the soldiers saw who we were, they let us pass. The line from Ramalla was VERY long.
Qalandiya. Young gum-vendors and slightly older windshield cleaners immediately besieged our car. It took 45 minutes to pass. At the CP, a Palestinian American citizen was refused entry into Jerusalem.
We drove via Givat Zeev to the Ramot CP. No checking at the top of the potholed path towards new Beit Hanina and Bir Nabala, and very few cars. The olive trees are covered with dust, and the harvesting has started. About 300 yards beyond the turn-off to the Qalandiya village was a CP where traffic moved smoothly and every vehicle (including ours) was waved through.
Sunday PM, 14.10.07
13:30, Qalqilya. The parking area is filled with Palestinian Israeli cars, families visiting families for the last day of Eid el Fitr, forced to leave their cars behind, cross the CP on foot or, if lucky, in a passing taxi.
14:10--14:45, on the way from Qalqilya to Beit Iba. Just before the settlement of Kedumim, large banners, in Hebrew, have been painted, and attached to trees. We don't catch the words but a group of settler youth stream down the hillside towards the roadway. On turning a bend in the road, we spy a "deserted" Palestinian house, now covered with bright blue plastic and next to it what looks like a tent on the side. Hill top youth takeover?
14:30, Jit Junction. The army has arrived and is about to create a checkpoint. The paraphernalia of temporary checkpoints is carried by one soldier from one place at the junction to another. Read on, one hour or so later….
14:45, Beit Iba. The new multi-lane checkpoint's roadways and sidewalks have been defined (no work going on today); the quarry is now fenced in, the dust as ever, although today, the last day of Eid el Fitr, it's not working. The checkpoint is not crowded with the usual passers by, but by families, all dressed up.
In the detention compound of old, one well dressed young man who signs to us that he's been there for three hours. Two and a half hours is confirmed by the commander, E., who has no idea why he's detained: "that was by the shift before mine… I was told just to watch over him." We voice our assumption that he's being checked. "Checked?" says E. in disbelief, "What for?" We persist, and make another assumption, also proven wrong by E., that the young man is being punished. "Of course not," says E., “but I will hold him until 3:00."
15:00. The commander is on the phone, we hear him asking if there's "authorization to release" the detainee. He does so.
15:30. On this last day of the three day festival, there are not so many people, going in or coming out of the city of Nablus, but we hear of two to three hour waits on the first two days of the Eid here. Even today, the line is very slow.
16:00, Jit Junction. 25 vehicles in line. 4 soldiers man the CP only at this part of the junction, so there is chaos. The situation is aided and abetted by one of the four soldiers being extremely aggressive and hostile. We see him hit a taxi driver who's been told, not only to open the trunk of his car, but to expose its underbelly. As the soldier hits the taxi driver, he throws the carpet covering the spare tire back into the body of the car, meanwhile shouting at us.
Sunday, 14.10.07, PM
Jit Junction. About 30 cars coming from the north were lined up. Drivers coming from the north complained of an hour-and-a-half waiting period. The army hotline explains that "because of the holiday (Eid al Fitr festivities ending the Ramadan month of fasting) checking is more thorough than usual". What has thorough checking got to do with the Palestinians' holiday? Then, in honor of that very same holiday, came another roadblock at Yitzhar Junction, with about 12 cars waiting, again soldiers checking everyone who has just now come from nearby Jit Junction checkpoint or Huwwara Checkpoint. The army's answer was already known, we didn't even bother asking.
15:30, Huwwara. Not very many pedestrians. The humanitarian line is open. Children and infants in their holiday best, hold on to new presents, especially toys. A second lieutenant checks this line quickly without harassing people. The pedestrian checks are conducted relatively fast. On the other hand, the vehicle-check procedures are very slow. People are required to disembark and stand away at a great distance while the driver approaches the soldiers with his passengers' IDs. Then he goes back to the car, brings it closer to the checking point, and only then the passengers join him. A female MP then conducts a manual metal-detector search on everyone's body – more or less massaging the men: front and back, all along inner and outer legs and arms, crotch and bottom, while joking around with her mates, slowly and thoroughly, and at the end – as an afterthought – hands the ID to the searched person with her head turned away, avoiding his/her eyes completely.
16:08. A first detainee -- a 35-year old resident of Al 'Ein refugee camp in Nablus. He is accompanied by his brother and sister who live in Beita village and want to have him over for their holiday dinner. They tell us he is a Palestinian policeman who was incarcerated in Israel and released a year-and-a-half ago. Ever since, he has only seen trouble at the checkpoints. At 17:44 the hotline tells us that the man "is security-prevented all types of travel/ passage, is actually not at all a Palestinian policeman, and since the time that he may be detained is almost up, he will soon be released and ordered to return to Nablus and not leave it." The man takes heart-breaking leave of his siblings and they go home without him.
In the meantime, another detainee is sent to the hold, suspected of possessing a counterfeit ID. About an hour later the man is released and sent back to Nablus. He stands again in line and when reaching the checking post, is sent to the hold again.
17:15. The pedestrian waiting-lines are full. A long line of cars has accumulating Nablus-bound. The owner of the "counterfeit ID" insists on reaching his village home, argues with the CP commander and the DCL (District Coordination Office) representative whose intervention we request. He is sent once again back into Nablus but insists and begs and pleads and finally the DCL rep. hands him back his ID and lets him through.
A mother and her children – one of them holding on to a large furry stuffed giraffe have a hard time convincing the soldier that this is merely a stuffed toy. He sends them over to the X-Ray truck that is by now long long-gone. He then proceeds to pummel it again and again to the children's giggles, and – frankly, to ours as well.
18:30, Beit Furiq. We were summoned here to see what can be done with a band that arrived from Tulkarm. One of the musicians is (alas) a blue ID (Israeli) holder, and they have been invited to play at the festivities in Beit Furiq. Indeed, an uncommon combination – Palestinians wanting to play music for Palestinians in a Palestinian village on Palestinian soil. They have been waiting at the CP for two hours now, and must shortly return because the Beit Iba Checkpoint to which they are assigned exclusively (to get back to their own homes) closes at 8 p.m. After talking and talking again with the army hotline and the DCL, the instruction is finally given to let them in, and the feast begins almost at the checkpoint itself.
In the detainees pen, we see two boys. When we approach the CP commander to have a word with him, he roughly orders us away. We managed to understand that they are guilty of having 'tried to sneak through the CP" (in other words: being too young to hold IDs of their own, they tried to sneak home without having their parents come to fetch them at the CP). Later, having done their punitive time in the pen, they are fetched by their father and go home.
Meanwhile, a bus arrives, full-to-bursting with wedding guests. Most are women and many children and babies, the youngest two weeks old carried asleep in the arms of her proud father. The bus waits until the soldiers signal it to approach (with a flashlight). All passengers are required to disembark and go through the turnstiles.
Wednesday, 17.10.07, AM
7.20, Zaatara. 13 cars are waiting from the west including 2 busses; 15 minutes late the line dissolves. A few cars are in line from the north. Car checking is random.
8.01, junction roads 57/60. The CP in the north south direction is manned. Checking is only by observation; there are 20 cars in line.
8.07, Huwwara. Three lines, one of which is ‘humanitarian’. The screening car is working; getting to it involves hopping over the concrete barrier as the opening, that was there, has been blocked by metal rods. There are few pedestrians leaving town. Passage into town is brisk.
8.24. Another line is opened.
There is no line of cars neither leaving town nor entering it.
9.32, Beit Furiq. 5 cars in line to go into Nablus; few pedestrians.
People told us that for the last 2 days the CP was only opened at 6:00-6.30 AM instead of 5:00 AM.
10.10. The CP at junction 57/60 is still working, 16 cars in line.
10.30, Zaatara. 3 cars in line from the north; no cars from the West.
Thursday-Friday, 18-19.10.07, PM
Beit Furiq Checkpoint by Night. After a relatively-calm period, Giv’ati infantry is back at Beit Furiq Checkpoint, and with them, all the toil and trouble. Daily we receive complaints of 2-3 hour waiting periods especially for people leaving Nablus on their way home (to the two villages – Beit Furiq and Beit Dajan – for which this checkpoint is supposed to have been created). Checking is unbearably slow, with no human consideration whatsoever.
20:00. A traffic accident casualty from Beit Furiq is taken to hospital, with him his family travelling in four cars to donate blood for him.
22:00. Having donated blood, the family members are on their way back home to Beit Furiq and the checkpoint is closed. They call the DCL twice, of their own initiative, and promises are made to help them…
23:00. They call me for help. The army hotline confirms they already know about this case. The DCL (District Coordination Office) rep says instructions were given to let them through. He promises to call once more.
00:08. Central Command War room night shift soldier picks up our call. She listens politely and carefully to our complaint and promises to look into it and see what can be done.
DCL officer R. says things are being taken care of, and instructions have been given long ago to the battalion to let these people though. Again it seems that the soldiers at the checkpoint are telling the DCL stories and ignoring instructions.
00:15. I call another DCL officer. It is the first he hears of this, and he promises to send a DCL officer to the Checkpoint.
00:33. The army hotline nightshift is amazed to hear from me yet again. "What?? Still?!" I say for the record, yes, still.
In the meantime the Palestinians call the DCL again where they are told that the soldiers have reported that they were let through. Why isn't anyone surprised?.
I get back to the nice lady officer at Central Command War room and she says that since the complaint has not come from the army she can do nothing but pass it on to the Civil Administration, who will pass it on to DCL Nablus, and from there to the Brigade HQ, from there to the Battalion HQ, and from there to the soldiers at the checkpoint. When I explain that all of this has already been done and since no results have been seen, something isn't working, she iterates that I am turning to the wrong address.
00:40. I call DCL again. Am told that the battalion refuses to open, and that as we speak, they are talking with the deputy brigade commander and requesting his intervention.
Another call to the special DCL officer and he asks for the cell number of the Palestinians to make sure they are indeed still stuck at the checkpoint. After talking to them, he gets back to me and assures me that right now; he is sending an officer to let them through, admitting that there is indeed a problem with this specific battalion.
01:15. DCL officer R. calls me to report that the Palestinians have been allowed through, 10 minutes ago.
Sunday, 14.10.07, PM The last day of the three day festival celebrating the end of Ramadan, Eid el Fitr.
16:45, Anabta. The vehicles going into Tulkarm are not checked. As usual, the line from Tulkarm stretches far into the distance. A carload of festival revelers, on their way to Tulkarm, tell us that it's already taken them three hours from Ramallah, through the numerous checkpoints.
17:10, Gate 753. Just three soldiers, no Palestinians.
Ar-Ras. Few passing cars, several are checked, but delay is but for a couple of minutes.
17:20, Gate 753 again. On our way back, there's a delay. The soldiers hold up a truck and cause a back up of vehicles and pedestrians coming out of Jubara.
Tuesday AM, 16.10.07, 0630-1200
Sansana, 06:30. Pandemonium. Over 40 vehicles waiting on the Israeli side for Palestinian workers to cross. The drivers yelled at us "What's going on? We're here since 4am". On the Palestinian side the line was very long, about 150. We made some phone calls.
2 checking positions operating and the women soldiers were polite. Each check took from 1-5 minutes. The new CO came to talk to us. He saw no problems and said nothing was wrong, all will pass by 8am. Does he know that some of them will lose a day of work if they come through so late? He claimed 800 workers had already passed before we arrived. Usually, at every station 4 soldiers carry out the checks, in two lines. Today only 2 soldiers at each station -- why?
Hebron: A new battalion. The soldiers look scared to death. They stand outside the CP with pointed guns and tell all the children to take off their belts, which trigger the alarm system. They are very alert. At Tel Rumeida a soldier stops everyone one who passes and takes the ID card or carries out a body check. The Palestinians comply. On the Worshippers' road the army has taken over a rooftop again, new sandbags and camouflage nets.
Highway 35: Within a stretch of 10-15 kilometres are 4 manned pillboxes.
Highway 60, Sheep's crossing, 10:30. Jeep with 4 soldiers sets up a new CP. They stop a mule and cart and check the produce. Meanwhile, pedestrians go back and forth. A battered Fiat Uno comes from Yatta with a mother and father and 2 little girls. Only a wreck like this can pass through the boulders set up as blockades. Cars are not allowed to cross #60, but this one tried anyway. The soldiers chase it. It stops. I yell: "Leave it alone, there are 2 little girls in the car." The soldier and driver talk, and the soldier returns to the jeep. The driver drives off. Yellow taxis all around, the soldiers are nervous, they start harassing everyone.
Samoa, 11:00 3 taxis, with the passengers standing outside, next to a jeep. The 3 taxis did the "unforgivable" they used unpaved roads to got on #6. One of the drivers was detained. His car keys were confiscated at 08:30, and returned at 11:00. In another taxi is an ill woman, with her mother and 2 others, on their way to the Alia Hospital in Hebron. The officer lets them pass. The 3rd taxi with 3 small children, women and men are all waiting for the detained driver. 2 hours on the highway, to teach them a lesson. We give water to the passengers and start making phone calls. That apparently gets the officer to take the driver's ID to be checked. After 20 minutes, everyone is released.
Tuesday AM, 16.10.07
Tarqumiya, 0920. 60 trucks and cars in a very long line. The Vehicle Registration Dept. is open today. Orders are to be more thorough, so every car is checked. The CO says that they must take apart the seats as well. When we arrive, they open another line. The last bus of prisoners' families is now being checked. All 8 buses 6 buses arrive at 6am, but must leave together, because of the police escort, so families have to wait from 2.5-3 hours at the CP. The Red Cross rep says that yesterday one of the scanners broke down, and the checking by hand took 4 hours.