Weekly Digest 24.2.08-1.3.08 | Machsomwatch
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Weekly Digest 24.2.08-1.3.08

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Monday, 3 March, 2008

Bethlehem Area


Sunday AM, 26.2.08

07:00 Bethlehem CP. Crowds on the street as well as inside, but people said crossing was quick today. 5 booths open and many people, but little tension.

07:45 Ezyon DCL. A small crowd in front of the locked door. At 08:00, 2 DCL officers, armed and with helmets in hands, ordered people away from the door and behind the cement blocks until the door was opened. The Palestinians obeyed quietly with expressionless faces.


Monday PM, 25.2.08, 14:00-17:00

Ezyon DCL. Empty but for a couple of young men waiting for a 'captain'.

Heading back, a hailstorm started. Probably due to the hail no soldiers stood outside to check the busses across from the entrance to Tantur.

Bethlehem CP: The storm intensified, and we remained in the car. People were running in record speed from the busses into the Terminal and then towards the exit. Only one person sported an umbrella (probably a tourist). Fortunately, no Palestinian had to stand waiting in the torrential rains.


Tuesday, 26.2.08, AM

06:30, Bethlehem CP. The usual: terrible crowding at the Palestinian entrance, where two of the three turnstiles are functioning; long lines inside, where only 5 of the 12 checking posts are functioning. From above, a female voice screams unintelligible orders.

07:50, Ezyon DCL. 10 are waiting for magnetic cards. The DCL opens on time 8:00. The first two men emerge minutes later with the cards.

Wednesday PM, 27.2.08

15:45 Bethlehem CP. Apparently, the Armenian Patriarch visited Bethlehem. The iron gate to Bethlehem at the roundabout was open, and the roundabout area was full of blue police, border police, and even mounted police. This caused quite a lineup of cars headed towards the CP,
but the line quickly vanished once the patriarch entered and the gate was closed.

Ezyon DCL, 16:00-16:40. Only about 6 people around. A merchant told us that his permit, always renewed in the past, was revoked, and he was called a liar for protesting that he is indeed a merchant. He brought documents to prove it, and these were under perusal with "the captain" We encouraged him to contact us if his efforts did not succeed. He claimed his particular problem was widespread. Has anyone else heard about new obstacles for merchants to renew their permits? This is usually done at the Palestinian DCL, and only problematic cases are sent to Ezyon. And back again. etc. A math teacher came to renew his annual magnetic card. Although he was there before closing time, he was told to "come back tomorrow". We tried,
but failed, to get a straight answer from the soldier at the window whether the place was in fact open or closed. That soldier's bottom line was that everyone had left so it was closed. But then the officer arrived, and not only claimed that the DCL was open, but even agreed to service the teacher then and there. But the man chose not to enter, saying he would come the next day, out of fear that if he entered at our intervention, he might be made "to pay" for it. He wanted to take no chances.

17:00 Bethlehem CP. About 100 people lining up, only 2 windows open. Each individual passed quickly enough, but the number of open windows was not appropriate for the number of waiting people. The guard refused to ask for more windows, saying there is no manpower. But another guard arrived, who asked for more openings at his own initiative.

Ar-Ram – Qalandiya Area

Sunday PM, 24.2.08

15:45, Qalandiya: 2 pedestrian passages operating, lines short. 3-4 people waiting on the DCL benches. No problems in the vehicle area. At 4pm the DCL closed, without receiving the waiting people, even if they had been waiting since 13:00.

16:30: One pedestrian gate closed, slowing passage to 16 minutes. Recurrent problems with the carousels at the CP exit. Laborers returning from their day's work were intermittently caught in front of the locked carousel. Finally, the problem was solved.

16:45: 50 people waiting outside the northern carousels with more arriving all the time. The soldier in the control room continued to talk on her phone and paid no attention to what was happening in the passageways.


Tuesday PM, 26.2.08

Anata. Many children (over 1000?) returning from school. The CP well staffed. No traffic backed up in either direction and much pedestrian traffic as well, some just walking out unchecked.

Leel CP. A huge line of vehicles, carefully checked, all with green plates. A sign forbids Israelis to cross.


Thursday AM, 28.2.08

06.25 Anata CP. A huge traffic jam, partly due to internal traffic, but otherwise quiet. Fewer soldiers than usual. One driver was stopped but then released. Many cars had their trunks checked.

07.20 Ar-Ram. Long car queue, but routine checking. One pedestrian was held up, but soon let through. Schoolchildren had to open their bags,and wait for the soldier to signal that they may pass. In contrast, in Anata children pass without being stopped or checked. Two teenage girls with pulled along suitcases had to hoist her case up on to a wall to open it, but the guard didn't even bother to look in it!

07.40 Qalandiya. Amazingly, no queue at the outer turnstile. The prisoners' families were already at the gatesinfo-icon. That's how it can be when the equipment works and the organization is efficient. The police officer was also helpful to individual people (even if not always successful).

Nablus Area

Sunday, 24.2.08, PM

A state of no passage of Palestinians of certain age groups into and out of town) is imposed.

Zaatara (Tapuach) Junction. No waiting lines.

15:20, Huwwara. Very long lines entering Nablus. The military engineers did not include in their planning considerations a situation in which the army would decide to inspect people on their way in as well. Everyone crowds between the two very narrowly spaced chicken wire fences that constitute the 'sleeveinfo-icon' through which the entry turnstile is usually approached. Two soldiers, pointing their rifles at the pedestrians waiting in this line, perform the selection who will continue into Nablus and who will be refused. The narrowness of this passage forces everyone to crowd insufferably, men, the elderly, women and children who are not in the banned age brackets. An English teacher from Jenin who now resides in Nablus and teaches at Beita is denied entry. He turns to the checkpoint commander, a second lieutenant who, with a sealed expression, listens to the teacher appealing to him again and again, and keeping still. Finally we approach the DCL representative and after he hears us out, he gets the teacher through. Later apparently the officer turns out to be a speaker after all: "Enough, you dumb women. I'm sick of you!" And later, "You collaborate with them instead of worrying about the soldiers". When we take one step across the 'white line': "You want to go into Nablus too? Go marry them…" Two soldiers stop a herd of sheep at the east of the checkpoint on the Nablus side. They lock him up in the detention cubicle and try to chase away the sheep by throwing stones at them. The shepherd's little brothers take the sheep away while their brother sits out his punishment, three hours of detention, "because he approached the checkpoint with a flock of sheep", as the DCL explains.

16:00. The line is long. Occasionally men are required to take their shoes off going through the metal detector in their socks on the filthy floor. Others are forced to run over to the X-ray truck and back to receive their IDs. The men waiting in line know that insubordination to the rules of standing in line will cost them extra waiting.

16:30. Young men report two hours waiting time. The vehicle checking line is conducted as usual, passengers getting off 10 meters away from the post, driver arriving with everyone's IDs, passengers waiting far away, the whole checking process sometimes lasting 20 minutes. A man who drove from Awarta on the Israelis-only road has already been detained for two hours as punishment. The DCL regards this as an obvious fact, so what if there is no road sign forbidding Palestinian traffic? The driver is supposed to know it's forbidden.

18:20. The soldiers announce a 'life-freeze' and close the checkpoint. They crawl, practice would-be-shooting and leap over concrete ledges in front of the astounded Palestinians. Within five minutes, about 60 people accumulate at the entry line, women with babies in their arms, a woman cancer patient on her way back from treatment, people on their way home from work, and the soldiers stand around talking. For 15 minutes they sand chatting. When the checkpoint re-opens, there are already over 100 people, all crowded into that narrow sleeve, and the soldiers checking IDs in the dark. As a result, they let most of the people through rather quickly, without really checking.

17:13, Beit Furiq. Few pedestrians, rapidly let through. Few vehicles, checked first only in one lane, then two. Beit Furiq and Beit Dajan residents have already become used to the fact that only they are allowed through this checkpoint, so no more tragic scenes are held here of relatives wishing to visit their family or anyone who is not officially a resident here.

Tuesday, 26.2.08, AM

According to the soldiers, confirmed by the Palestinians, as of today there's no closureinfo-icon nor separation.

07:35--08:45, Beit Iba. The soldiers are surprisingly friendly. This is their last day at this checkpoint, which may explain it. Passage is quick. At first the ones entering the city are not checked at all, then they are checked randomly, most of the time men only. A dog-handler and her dog check some cars, obviously to train the dogs. Three young men are led to the detaineesinfo-icon' enclosure. They are "drippers", to use army lingo -- they walked through the surrounding hills to evade the checkpoint.

Thursday, 28.2.08, PM

There did not seem to be any extra collective restrictions enforced in the area of Nablus.

15:36–18:10, Beit Iba. Especially crowded and tense. At any given time there were at least 100 pedestrians waiting in line, and at times -- close to 200. Waiting time: about half an hour. The MPs were very rude and nervous. When belts and shoes were to be removed, the belts had to be thrown on the ground and people had to stand on the filthy ground in their socks. 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.

Over 60 people were waiting most of the time at the “humanitarian” line. Waiting time: about 10 minutes. Checking here was laborious, but when the line got too long, checking was speeded up and people were waved through for a few minutes.

Pedestrians going into Nablus were checked quite thoroughly. This seemed unusual since we’ve often seen just a random check done.

There were 7 detainees. Four of them had tried to bypass the CP. They were held an hour and then were sent to the back of the line. 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 on line. From Nablus -- an average of 8 to 10 vehicles. Waiting time: around a half hour in both directions.

Qalqiliya Area

Tuesday, 26.2.08, AM

No closures. The taxi drivers everywhere say, "all is well today". Joy of the poor.

06:30--07:00, Qalqilya. Few vehicles both directions, and they are hardly checked, but the soldiers manning the entrance side take it easy, and lines form. Eventually I approach them and ask politely to show consideration for the people, their time and the fact that this is not the only checkpoint the have to pass today. They claimed that this is their way to "prevent burnout". But they did start passing vehicles without delay, at least while we were there.

Azun. This is our first sight of the new sand embankment and barbed-wire "curls" blocking the entrance to the village. Gone is the nice square and one more ugly construction is added to the concrete, boulders and barbed-wire jungle disfiguring the occupied territories. A teacher from Qalqilya in her long dress embarks upon her mountain-climbing feat on her way to work.

09:00--09:15, Anabta. Unlike other times, no lines at all and the few vehicles pass without checking.

09:25--10:00, Jubara. We didn't make it into the village nor to Ar-Ras. The unit manning the checkpoint changed, the key to the village-gate disappeared.

Thursday, 28.2.08, PM

14:15, Tulkarm. The entrance to Azun from route 55 is still blocked by a high wall of dirt and boulders. The more southern entrance (the old route 55) is open to traffic.

We stopped at Kufr Sur to deliver official forms to be filled in with details of village residents in need of permission to cross over to their land. Even though they may have land both near the Salet gate (839) and the Children's Gate (735), they can get permission for only one.

14:57, Ar-Ras. 20 vehicles on line from Tulkarm; none going in. 10 workers were waiting at the Children's Gate (735) to go back home.

15:00, Jubara. 10 vehicles of Israeli Arabs were waiting on line to leave the territories. Settlers and Jewish Israelis are allowed to go through on a separate line.

15:16--15:40, Anabta, 20 vehicles on line in each direction. The lines were moving along. Checking in both directions was random.

A taxi driver was detained because he tried to cut around. When the soldiers told him to go to the back of the line, he refused. He told us that he was only dropping passengers off. He was NOT going through the CP to Tulkarm.

18:49--19:10, Qalqilya. 15 vehicles on line to Qalqilya; no cars coming out. Israeli cars were not allowed entrance into Qalqilya if they were not on the soldier's list. They could walk in, though.

Jordan Valley


Thursday PM, 28.2.08

12:04 Ma'ale Efraim CP. Drowsy soldiers lean on their rifles at this CP, and no cars in sight.

13:10 Tiasir CP. A soldier chants Jewish songs as he checks a car meticulously. The driver attempts to place his bags on the floor with care, yet their contents spill on the floor. 'Know this song?' asks the soldier amicably. All car passengers dismount before they arrive at the CP, to continue on foot. Pedestrians and drivers are stopped at a distance of 10 meters. The soldiers announce over the speakers: "Raise your shirt", and all males, including children 7 years old, do so. The soldiers poke around the children's school bags.

15:13 The gate on the road between Tiasir and Hamra CPs is open Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, 08:00-08:30 and 15:00-15:30. Only then can Palestinian cars pass. The gate is open now and a tractor full of Bedouins passes.

15:47 Hamra CP. 'Today is good', we are greeted by one of the men who had just passed. In the shed is a detainee, hands handcuffed behind his back, sitting on the concrete floor. He is a shepherd from Hirbat Tane. A soldier says he was caught with a big knife, admitting the shepherd was nowhere near the CP or the soldiers, and did not resist search and arrest. In fact the knife was just 15 cm long. He's been here for an hour, waiting for the police. Here too, men and children must raise their shirts to pass. 16:30 a police car arrives. An officer congratulates the soldiers on a job well done. The plastic handcuffs are removed, leaving a mark on the man's wrists). The shepherd says he'd rather die than abandon his sheep while he is taken by the police. The officer grabs him by the back of the neck, pushes him towards the wall and makes him bend down, facing the wall. The soldiers take photos of the prisoner. 10 soldiers standing around doing nothing.

17:30 The prisoner released, and heads towards the hills to look for his sheep, as the sky darkens.

Hebron Area

Sunday AM, 24.02.08

05:00-06:50. Tarqumiya - On the way to the CP dozens of transits pass us. Apparently the CP opened at 04:00, and passage was rapid. Still, drivers with blue IDs waited to pass for up to 30 minutes, except for those from Qiryat Arba. A man who had his ribs broken when he was crushed by the mass of people at the CP last month stopped to talk to us, telling us of others' woes.


High Court

Sunday AM, 24.2.08

09:00 3 blacklisted Bethlehemites petitioned the court, after we (MW) were unsuccessful in petitioning the Civil Administration on their behalf for a lifting of their security blacklisting. M is married to a Jerusalem woman; I, father of 13, refused to collaborate with the GSS, and F, father of 5, whose brother was killed. The judge ruled against M, advising him to appeal in the framework of family reunification. However, the reality is that this is the more difficult path; people are blacklisted to prevent family reunification. After the presentation of the cases, the judge asked to hear the GSS in camerainfo-icon. and the public was asked to leave. Upon returning to the court room, we heard the judge's decision to uphold the blacklisting. On what basis can the judge decide? There were no witnesses and no way to defend oneself. The charges are not for acts committed but for family or social relations. Perhaps greetings were exchanged on the street with certain people, family events were attended by certain people, etc. The only way to prevent this is to cut off all one's ties, to shut one's telephone and to live as a prisoner in one's own house. Since everything is classified, the accused themselves don't know what they are accused of. They weren't even at the court, as they don't have permits to go there! The judge approved the defense counsel's request to apply for a permit again in 6 months. Meanwhile, how will the families eat?