Sha`ar Shomron (Qasem), Sun 30.3.08, Afternoon
14:40 – On our way to Nablus checkpoints we saw at Shomron Gate a line of Palestinian men sitting next to the checkpoint with their backs to it.
18:45 – On our way back they were still sitting in the same position, and we decided to enquire about the circumstances of their detention. Seven detainees, young men who provide for their families, had been held, according to them, since 09:00 and 11:00 in the morning when they were caught. Their documents were taken by soldiers driving a Hummer in the hills, and they were sent to get them back in addition to being detained at the checkpoint as a punishment. The soldiers and the traffic policeman who was there said they had arrived at 14:30. Even then, they had been detained for over 4 hours. We saw the last one walking on road 5 towards the checkpoint as we were driving past him. He arrived at the checkpoint 20 minutes later. We asked and got the permission of the checkpoint commander and the policeman to talk to them. Two of the men said they had been beaten and kicked by the soldiers and they had eaten and drunk nothing since the morning, not to mention going to the toilets. Their cell phones and cigarettes had been confiscated by the soldiers and they were forbidden to stand up or turn their faces to the checkpoint (when one of them did stand up to give his legs a shake, he was immediately scolded with shouts by the soldier at the watch tower. We asked and were given permission to give them some pretzels and water. A little later one of the soldiers incited the checkpoint commander (Sergeant Yoel) against us and he demanded sternly that we leave the checkpoint area, saying "the checkpoint is mine now and this is what I want, you interrupt and annoy me". The inciting soldier kept saying that he didn't have to give them food and drink because they had trespassed on "my land" and "had broken the law". The Palestinians begged us not to leave for fear that they would be beaten. That particular soldier looked as if he was only waiting for a chance to do it. We contacted Efrayim brigade through the Tel-Aviv checkpoint team. An hour later a Hummer arrived bringing the I.D. cards of those who had been waiting, according to the checkpoint commander and the policeman, since 14:30, which is after 5 hours. The checkpoint commander said he was taking them up for inspection and ensured us he was not interested in keeping them more than necessary. An additional phone call to the brigade office resulted in the arrival at 19:35 of two jeeps with the battalion commander, lieutenant-colonel Ronen, and the company commander, captain Shlomi, who listened carefully to our complains and gave us a briefing about the increasing number of "illegals" [in Israel without a residence permit] and told us about their achievements in stopping this phenomenon. They agreed with us that as long as there was no economic prosperity in the territories and the Palestinians had no way of making a living, there was no solution to the problem. They also declared that the fence in the section of the settlement of Ari'el was about to be constructed so as to close the breach in the wall and promised to release the detainees as soon as we left the checkpoint to eliminate any connection between our presence and their release.
In addition, they promised to protect them from the soldiers' violence, which could always come up despite their objection to it.
Before we left, we gave the detainees our phone number, and since we haven't heard from them, we hope they were really released as promised right after we had left.