The village of Khirbet 'Aasale in the Qalqiliya District possessed 6,000 dunams of lands around the village, prior to the construction of the Separation Fence. Following its construction, 70% of this area was trapped on the western side of the Fence (the "Israeli" side, or as it is commonly called, "the Seamline Zone"). An agricultural gate was installed in the Fence, supposedly to enable the farmers to access their land, about 1 km west of the road leading from the village to its fields. The gate is far from the fields, and the fields are totally inaccessible by tractor. Lacking a proper road, the farmers must either reach their fields on foot or on donkey-back, across hilly, rugged terrain.Thus, the farmers are prevented from tilling their own olive groves.
The army also prevents children unaccompanied by adults from crossing the gate and reaching the land. After school, then, the children are prevented from helping their parents. Despite the fact that most of the permit holders are residents who have proven ownership of their land and withstood the Civil Administration's criteria, they receive seasonal rather than annual permits. A landowner can obtain one additional permit for a first-degree family relative, but only for the season alone. There are no work permits for hired labourers.
The farmers have a right to access and till their lands, but the military commander who is supposed to defend this right has decreed that the gate be opened only three times a day – one hour in the morning, half an hour at noon, and half an hour in the afternoon. Even when the gate is opened at the appointed hour, it closes long before its official closing time. The soldiers let through whoever has arrived and close within minutes. (from a letter by the Seamline Zone Machsomwatch team, addressed to the head of the Civil Administration and to the Legal Adviser for the West Bank)
Khirbet 'Aasale is not a single, special case. There are 37 agricultural gates in the Fence, as follows:
* Seasonal gates – open only during specific farming seasons (namely for the olive harvest), for one week to three months.
* Day gates – open all year round, twice or three times a day, for between 15 minutes and an hour each time.
* 'Fabric-of-life' gates – open all year round, for about 12 hours a day, usually for residents of villages that have been halved or for landowners whose fields remain on the western side of the Fence.
* Gates for single houses – for the passage of a single family or families, whose homes remain isolated on the western side of the Fence.
Agricultural permits are valid from 5 am until 7 pm. Only few people use the checkpoint gates since they open only twice weekly and they close at 3 pm. People are afraid of having their permits confiscated for not having returned on the same day and/or through the same gate. ('Aanin 27.8.07)
People no longer wanted to cross for their IDs were confiscated yesterday. ('Aanin 2.8.07)
People are afraid their permits will be confiscated. ('Aanin 6.8.07)
Lately, the army has been confiscating people's entry permits.('Aanin 23.8.07)
Only eight people crossed this morning, and seven have already returned. They were there in the morning, but since someone had his permit confiscated and everyone was waiting at the gate, he turned back home and did not cross. ('Aanin 30.8.07)
Three boys from Qatane village were tried by judge Major Menahem Lieberman for "Exiting the area without a permit" (namely entering the area confiscated by Israel for the Separation Fence). All were sentenced to 100 days in prison + 3 months pending prison term + 1000 NIS fine. The father of one of the boys (16 years old) was allowed to speak and explained that the Fence, one of the openings through which the boys used to cross, is located on land that his family has been tilling for generations. Even as recently as last year, he said, he worked the plot that is now beyond the Fence. The judge answered that the issue at hand is not the Fence but illegal entry into Israel. (Ofer military court 6.9.07)
Days of Atonement
Disabled Rasmi Khatib was arrested at his home in Al Fawar village, accused of throwing a homemade incendiary bomb. According to the father, during the preliminary hearing the judge interrupted the prosecution and raised doubts as to how the disabled detainee could throw such a device since he can not use his hand even for simple everyday needs. The young man, now 19 years old, was seriously wounded 6 years ago by a bullet fired into a school house. During the past 6 years, a military trial has been taking place against the army for shooting into the school. The trial has not has not yet been concluded. The wounded boy has been through endless surgery and medical treatment but has remained seriously disabled both physically and mentally, and his parents care for him as if he were a baby. (Ofer military court 6.9.07)
"They won't get to pray at Al Aqsa Mosque even if they're 90."
"You should thank me for not pulling the trigger."
"I am army, police, border police – everything".
As usual, a group of elderly people waits patiently – perhaps this week they will be permitted to get to Al Aqsa for the Friday prayers… Talking with the checkpoint commander, it becomes clear that such hopes will not be met. It has been 3-4 months that even the very elderly have not been permitted to cross for the Friday prayers. "Even at 90, no one goes to the Mosques on Temple Mount without a permit", says the checkpoint commander. (Sheikh Sa'ed 17.8.07)
At 5 pm we met some construction workers sitting in the north shed at Qalandiya checkpoint, waiting for their ride home. One told us that they arrive at Qalandiya every day at 4:30 am. At this time, only one sleeve works and the waiting line stretches all the way back to the parking area. At 5:30 am all the gates are opened and the lines proceed more rapidly until everyone is through by 6:30 am. This group of workers proceeds to the construction site at Modi'in, arriving there at about 9 am (the workday begins at 7 am!) and continues until 3 pm. Whenever there is any trouble the workers arrive even later and are afraid to be fired for their inconsistent timing. They get back to Qalandiya at 5 pm and travel another 2 hours to get home (Nablus area). Simple reckoning has them hardly asleep in their beds before they have to get up again at 2:30 am to get to Qalandiya at 4:30 am ! (Qalandiya 5.8.07)