MACHSOMWATCH OBSERVATIONS DURING SEPTEMBER 2003
MachsomWatch is an Israeli human rights women’s organization, which conducts observations at several checkpoints in the West Bank. The following is the September 2003 summary of detailed Machsom Watch reports.
Wadi Nar road – the road that connects Abu Dis with Bethlehem, which is accessible
Qalandya checkpoint – between Ar-Ram and Qalandya, on the way to Ramallah,
which separates areas of Jerusalem, which were annexed in 1967 from
Beit Furik checkpoint – the checkpoint that controls the movement between Nablus
1. Checkpoints before September 9 attacks.
The end of Hudna and the Israeli government decision that each person affiliated with Hamas is a prospective target for assassination had an escalating impact on the events in the occupied territories and in Israel. The most dramatic was an attempt to assassinate Sheih Yassin on September 6, which induced an expectation to retaliation in the form of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. The full closure on the West Bank was announced immediately after this assassination attempt. Our observers were at Qalandya checkpoint next day, onSeptember 7. Palestinians with Israeli IDs, health workers with permits and humanitarian cases were let through, but many people could not reach their work and homes. Two day later, on September 9, after the attack in Zrifin and before the night attack in Café Hillel, our observers reported Ar-Ram checkpoint being closed completely during their afternoon observation or open towards Jerusalem only!! There were also several checking points in the whole Jerusalem area – at Ora junction leading to Hadassah hospital all Arabs (including many workers and students) were detained and their IDs checked, as reported by our observer on September 8. Interestingly, no special tension could be felt on September 7 andSeptember 9 in Abu Dis and Wadi Nar area by our observers. There was an “unobstructed” movement over the wall, the movement through Wadi Nar was also easy in both directions. On September 9, during the morning shift in the Bethlehem area, our volunteers were informed by border police about “hot warnings” of terrorist attacks. The tension was very evident, with very little movement of vehicles and people.
In conclusion: In spite of clear warnings, imposing huge restrictions on Palestinian movement, which made their life even more difficult than usual, two terrorists attacks causing heavy casualties in human life could not be prevented.
2. Mass detention of Palestinians
Following the terrorist attacks of September 9, the scenes of mass detention for several hours of Palestinians could be witnessed by our observers near the American Consulate in East Jerusalem on September 9 and September 21. Unprecedented detention of around 800 people was witnessed by our observers on September 20 near Sawahre area on the Wadi Nar road. IDs of detained Palestinians, who were in fact all men who happened to be in the area, were checked for hours. People who had special permits issued by the DCO were included and had to wait with others for 5-6 hrs to get their Ids back. Our observers reported that detainees in East Jerusalem were prevented from using their mobile phones.
3. Students and humanitarian cases
During September our volunteers observed a clear, positive change in the policy towards students. From the first days of the new school year teachers, university students and school children were able to pass much more easily, in comparison with the previous academic year. Permits issued by the DCO are not requested from students and teachers any more. At Qalandya checkpoint a special line for quick passage for pupils, their parents and teachers, was organized as reported by our observers on September 3. The passage of children in Jubara area was also simple as observed on September 4. However the small opening in the Abu Dis wall was open and closed intermittently so that small children climbing over 2 m high wall were observed by our volunteers during their shift on September 2. In spite of the high alert after the assassination attempt of Sheih Yassin, children were allowed to go to school on September 7 as observed at Qalandya and Abu Dis, and on September 8 in Jubara. The comparatively easy passage of students was very striking in comparison with a very difficult passage of humanitarian cases. During all our observations made at Huwwara and Beit Furik checkpoints (September 6, September 13, September 18, September 20 and September 27), we observed an extremely difficult passage of ill and disabled people. People going to hospital and clinics in Nablus were requested to bring special papers and even people with relevant documents were very often prevented from passing. This situation is unbearable for the Palestinian population since their health problems are judged by young, healthy and inexperienced soldiers, who generally believe that the fact that so many Palestinians seek medical help, proves that they all lie. Given this attitude, the frequent cases of child delivery at the checkpoints are unavoidable.
4. The land cultivation problem in villages along the “separation” wall south of Tulkarm.
The fence, which passes through this area, Separates villagers from their olive groves and other cultivated land. On September 4, September 15 and September 22, our observers learned that soldiers at the Jubara checkpoint had a list of people who received permits to cross to the other side of the fence and only those whose names were on the list were allowed passage. This requirement is extremely difficult to fulfill since land ownership passes from one generation to another within a family without the land registration being updated accordingly. In addition, family members who are not on the list cannot pass and help in the field work. The application for permits to reach the land can be submitted to the DCO, but the decisions, instead of being sent to the applicants, are only indicated by one’s presence or absence on the new list at the Jubara checkpoint. Updated lists arrive sporadically at the checkpoint and an applicant for a permit to cultivate his land has to waste much time to find out if he got a positive or a negative answer from the DCO. The observations made along the separation wall in Jubara-Tulkarm area probably illustrate a general problem of farmers who live along the “separation fence”, as observed also at the Qaffin gate, east of Baka-ash-Sharkiya, on September 25.