MACHSOMWATCH OBSERVATIONS DURING DECEMBER 2003 | Machsomwatch
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MACHSOMWATCH OBSERVATIONS DURING DECEMBER 2003

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Wednesday, 31 December, 2003

 Below is the December 2003 summary of Machsomwatch's observations based on 120 independent observations at 12 different checkpoints. Detailed reports can be found on our website: www.machsomwatch.org and direct links are provided from this summary to the reports referred to below.

 

In spite of constant talk in Israeli media about the need to ease the situation of the Palestinian population, our observations point to systematic and ongoing harm to each aspect of the individual and communal life of this population. The main purpose of checkpoints and walls is to make a life of Palestinians as difficult as possible, as was clearly formulated by soldiers at Qalandiya (December 12 Afternoon) “they (Palestinians) need to learn that the passage is not easy here” and as was well examplified by a report from Abu Dis (December 9 Morning) where soldiers asked people to climb over the wall “not in front of their (soldiers) eyes”.

The whole of the West Bank is in a continuous process of “ghettoization” where More and More closed ghettos are established, and the control of the movement by the checkpoints is tighter and tighter.

 

Qalqiliya ghetto

Qalqiliya , the city of 35000 people is an example of such a ghetto surrounded by a wall with one entrance through the Qalqiliya checkpoint. The control of the city life by the Israeli army is complete. Our observers reported closureinfo-icon of the city where only “humanitarian cases” can negotiate their way, for prolonged periods of time. During December, one period of closure was from December 8 till December 16, and another, started on December 25, a short time before the Geha Road suicide bombing, till January 4, 10 a.m., when the checkpoint was completely open, with no soldiers present at the checkpoint. The unbearably hard life imposed by the closure in the completely sealed city was documented in reports from Qalqiliya checkpoints. The reports from December 12 Morning14 Afternoon15 Morning25 Afternoon, and 30 Morning describe very difficult or nonexistent passage of ill and disabled people aand of people unable to return to their homes. On December 8 in the Morning Palestinians tried to break through the checkpoint and the “order” was enforced by shooting and threatening desperate people who needed to pass this checkpoint for various reasons.

 

Qalandiya checkpoint - chronicle of a death foretold

Despite MachsomWatch repeated warnings to the IDF spokesperson, to the Civil Administration hotline and to the Binyamin Brigade headquarters about ongoing shooting at Qalandiya checkpoint, (December 1 Afternoon3 Afternoon and 7 Afternoon), 15 year old Fares Abed Al-Kader was killed by a soldier near the Separation Fence on December 9, 2003. He was the third child to be killed under similar circumstances at Qalandiya within 10 months: 14 year old Omar Matar was shot to death on March 28, 2003 while throwing stones at the fence, and 12 year old Ahmed Abu Latifa was killed in the same way and at the same place on September 14, 2003. Almost every day in the Afternoon a well known “ritual” takes place in the area of the Separation Fence: the youngsters throw stones at the fence and the soldiers respond with tear-gas and live ammunition. Many times, MachsomWatch observers witnessed these unequal confrontations between fully equipped, armed soldiers and stone throwing children, and every time our observers sent warning messages to the army. But the recurrent answer was that the soldiers do not use live ammunition and that they only shoot into the air! The question is, how many More children will have to die before the army will Decide to use less lethal methods to deal with stone-throwing youngsters and how long will this chronicle of foretold deaths continue.

 

Qalandiya checkpoint separates the Palestinian neighborhoods Qalandiya, Kufur Aqab and Semiramis from A-Ram. The passage through this checkpoint became nearly impossible for most of the people and as witnessed by our observers innumerable times, in order to reach home, working place or families (5 minute by car), people are sent to a huge roundabout trip through Surda, which takes 1-1.5 hr and costs 25 NIS (5.5$, for a population where 70% live under the poverty line of 2$ per day) (December 2223, 2003 and January 1, 2004 Afternoon).

 

The denial of a medical care

Access to medical help when passage through checkpoints is involved (e.g. for all people living outside main cities) is very difficult all over the West Bank. Even under “normal”, non-closure conditions, passage of ill and disabled is constantly obstructed. On December 1 Morninga person with a document proving his need to go to the Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv was denied passage at Jubara checkpoint. Similarly, at the same checkpoint on December 8 Morning, 17 Morning, parents with ill children managed to pass to Tulkarm clinics only after the intervention of MachsomWatch observers. Also, at Huwwara, on December 3 Afternoon a very ill 6-year old boy after abdominal surgery managed to pass with his father, only after the intervention of MachsomWatch observers. The open dehumanization of Palestinians, and insensitivity to their suffering was expressed by a soldier who denied the above mentioned boy passage: “When this boy will explode himself in Tel-Aviv what will you say then? “ was the soldier’s comment, when MachsomWatchers insisted on the boy’s passage through the checkpoint. At Qalandiya, on December 8 Afternoon blind people were not allowed to pass with their escorts; on December 16 Afternoon a psychologically disturbed woman was denied professional help from a social service worker and instead, was detained at the police station for the whole night.

 

Under closure, seeking medical help is nearly impossible. Qalqiliya, Tulkarm and Nablus were under closure for many days during December (Qalqiliya was under closure for about 17 days out of 31). Our observers reported constant denial of medical help from the Palestinian population, where ill and disabled had to plead for 2-3 hours in order to pass a checkpoint. (Qalqiliya , December 12 MorningDecember 14 Afternoon, Tulkarem December 28). At Huwwara , Beit Furik and Sarra (all checkpoints around Nablus) on December 27 Afternoon30 Morning31 Afternoon, during extensive military attacks of Israeli forces in Nablus, the closure was so tight that people with proper documents, seeking medical help of any kind, were allowed to pass in ambulances only, at minimal price of 50 NIS (11$). Parents with a babyinfo-icon suffering from heart malfunction, on the way to consultations with an expert cardiologist from the USA were denied passage to Tulkarm, as reported on December 31 Morning, and only after prolong intervention of MachsomWatch observers, after 1 hr waiting they were allowed to pass.

 

Disruption of work and education

Work:

Unemployment in the West Bank reached 70%. Palestinian men are desperate to earn money for their families. Checkpoints and walls are very difficult obstacles which people try to overcome in order to find work. Detained work-seekers are found near every checkpoint and near each wall. (Huwwara December 3 Afternoon, Qalandiya December 9 Afternoon, Qalqiliya December 10 Afternoon, Jubara December 8 Afternoon and 11 Afternoon, Abu Dis December 14 Morning, BethlehemDecember 25 Morning) Their IDs are taken and they are punished by waiting for hours till they are returned. Very often IDs are lost by careless soldiers and people return to the checkpoint again and again, because moving around without ID is dangerous and obtaining a new one from the Palestinian Authority takes time and is very expensive. (Qalqiliya December 2 Afternoon, Qalandiya December 29 AfternoonDecember 30 Afternoon).

 

Education:

Reaching educational institutions is difficult for young, adolescent and students. Young children in Jubara, a village disconnected from a primary school by the Sparation Wall, have to pass through a “school gate” open for a short period of time by soldiers twice a day. Our observers try to make sure that the gate is open long enough to allow all children to pass, however it is clear that when MachsomWatchers are not present, the “school gate” stays open for a short period of time, and local people claim that it often happens that children wait for 2 hrs in bad weather till soldiers come to open the gate . (Jubara December 9 Morning,December 11 AfternoonDecember 15 MorningDecember 28 Afternoon). Adolescents face a huge problem of passing Qalandiya checkpoint on the way to their schools. They are requested to present original birth certificates, (not photocopies) which their parents are afraid to give them (Qalandiya December 1 AfternoonDecember 8 AfternoonDecember 20 Afternoon) and they are thus often prevented from reaching their schools. Students at some universities manage to pass during “non-closure conditions”. For example students of Al Najah University (Nablus), but not those of Al-Quds University (Abu Dis) can pass through checkpoints surrounding Nablus. Students trying to reach Al-Quds University complain about harassment at a flying checkpoint near Maale Adumim, at which their arrival to studies is delayed on purpose (Qalandiya December 30 Afternoon)

 

The persecution through fines

It is quite clear that there is a policy of persecution of the Palestinian population via collection of fines. The extremely poor population is harassed by the civil police, under the cover of “maintaining law and order”. It is nearly impossible for a law-abiding Palestinian to update his car permits or to take care of car maintenance, while movement to relevant offices and to garages is obstructed by checkpoints through which he cannot pass. However, Palestinian people are heavily punished for inadequate car maintenance and licences. OnDecember 2 Morning at Qalqiliya, our Watchers observed a “police ambush” fining drivers for invalid car papers and for not wearing back seat belts (100 IS, 23$). In conversation the policeman admitted that the daily police ambush was a result of “the opening of the Qalqiliya checkpoint”, and its purpose was to demonstrate governmental authority. At Huwwara onDecember 17 Afternoon, taxi drivers received 500 IS (114$) fines for parking cars outside the parking lot. Similarly in the Qalandiya report from December 29 Afternoon, the Watchers observed in the A Ram area a policeman dispensing traffic tickets to taxi drivers - the fine varied between 250 and 500 NIS. Whoever did not want to pay the fine was invited to appear in court. The drivers claimed that this phenomenon repeats itself every day. The blue police was also active in Wadi Nar (see Abu Dis December 25 Afternoon) giving occasional tickets to drivers. It is worthwhile to add that Israeli forces destroyed Palestinian Authority police services and Israeli police does not provide any protection to Palestinian civilians from criminals. Fines are the only "police service" they receive from the State of Israel.