Beit Iba, Thu 5.6.08, Afternoon
Students who study at the University in Nablus are on vacation until the middle of June therefore there was not a huge crowd of students returning to their homes for the Muslim Shabbat. Still there was a constant stream of pedestrians and vehicles moving to and from Nablus.
There were 3 detainees through out the shift. Two were there when we arrived at 2:28PM. The 3rd came at about 3:00PM. They were kept till after we left. At 6:00PM when we called the number we had gotten from one of the detainees he said they were just let go. We were in touch with the Matak and the Humanitarian Hot line through out the shift and they said they were keeping tabs on it. The commanding officer told us their ID numbers were on the list and so it was up to the secret service and not up to him to let them go. There seems to be a new term for those caught in this way:"pack of wolves" (chavurat zaaveem) instead of "bingo".
Every ID of pedestrians was checked regardless of age, sex, or direction of travel. This resulted in a long wait for those on the side line ( "humanitarian line") as well as for those coming into Nablus. The side line for older men and for women and humanitarian cases leaving Nablus had from 30 to 80 people for most of the shift and it took 25 minutes and even 30 minutes from 2:30PM to 3:15PM for the last person on line to get to the head of the line. I noted a woman with a red dress at 2:34PM and she passed through at 2:59. A volunteer from the Ecumenical church organization stood on line at 2:37PM and did not pass through until 3:13PM. After complaining a number of times to the commander and calling the Humanitarian Hot line there was a change and at 3:33PM a person at the end of the line was through by 3:43PM.
There was a constant line of about 20 on the line for young men. One turnstile was in use and there were 2 MPs checking IDs. There was the usual back and forth through the metal detector until the reason for the buzzing was discovered. Often the buzzer would go off even when nothing was passing through. It took an average of a minute or just under a minute for the checking of each young man.
The general mood at the CP was to keep exactly to the book. As I mentioned above, all IDs from both directions were checked through out the shift. The commanding officer moved from station to station trying to make things work. He spent some time at the growing line of men and women coming into Nablus (a line of 18 to 40) starting from about 3:40 PM thus providing a separate line for the women. While he was checking the women, and any time he happened to pass by this pedestrian line, he made sure that people did not step over the red line. He wanted to make sure that people realized there were rules to be followed and that no one was an exception—not an older man, not a woman, not a child. On the side line from Nablus the people were kept behind a line about 25 meters from the checking booth. When one of the donkey wagons wanted to bring an old computer screen from Nablus he was stopped and turned back because he could not open it in order to look in side."Don't open, don't pass" says the soldier. When a car with a permit had some boxes on the back seat he was turned back because he was "carrying merchandise". He came back a few minutes later with out the boxes. We were constantly told to step back to the area slightly west of where the booth for checking pedestrians coming into Nablus are checked. When we asked to get the phone number of one of the detainees before we left, the commanding officer surprisingly let us go speak to them but about 2 minutes later he came running and said, "No, you are not allowed to speak to them." We had already gotten one phone number.
When we arrived at 2:28PM there was only set of soldiers checking the traffic vehicles. One side would be checked for a while and then the other. Here and there in between those coming from Kuchen were allowed through. At 3:03PM an additional set of soldiers were put on so that each side had their own checking done continuously.
We were told by another MW shift that we should check out the situation with taxis waiting for passengers going to Kuchen. They wait about 50 meters toward Kucheen from the CP junction. Evidently there was a change in policy recently and the taxis were not allowed to wait so close. However, today I spoke to a taxi driver from Kucheen who told me that as long as there is only one taxi waiting at a time, they can stand in their usual place of about 50 meters away.
There was no a lot of vehicle traffic to Nablus today. At 2:55PM there were 9 on line and at 3:30PM there were 24 vehicles on line. When we arrived at 2:28PM there were 15 vehicles on line and the 15th passed through the checking booth at 2:52PM. At 3:46PM there were 11 vheicles on line to Nablus and the 11th passed through at 3:59PM. By 4:32PM there were no vehicles on line to Nablus.
When we arrived there were 5 vehicles from Nablus and it took from 2:28 to 2:42 (14 minutes) before the 5th vehicle passed through. By 2:55PM there were no vehicles from Nablus waiting on line.
We left Beit Iba at 4:43PM . See the "Tul Karm Area" for the continuation of our shift.