Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Wed 4.6.08, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
7:20 Za'tara-Yitzhar intersection
A long line of cars from the west, but they're being checked relatively quickly, and while we're there the line gets shorter. A bus that arrived was held for a relatively short time. The passengers weren't asked to get off. Their documents were returned to the driver and he passed them out - a welcome change from the usual procedure here regarding buses.
The Burin-Yitzhar intersection is empty.
7:50 Beit Furik
On the road, near Yitamar, there are still fragments of glass and stains, a memorial to the Palestinian car that arrived there by mistake a few days ago. The driver abandoned it and ran away, and the settlers took out their anger on the car.
8 vehicles waiting in the parking lot. No particular delays. Sparse traffic at the checkpoint, as usual at this time of day. Only one car passed through from Nablus while we were here. Pedestrian traffic picks up after 8 am.
When we arrived we saw a group of about 15-18 youths (mostly aged 17) detained between the checkpoint's concrete barriers, and two soldiers guarding them, their weapons pointing directly at them. When we asked what was going on we were first answered rudely by Z., the MP. A, the DCO representative, who we located later, avoided answering by saying that he didn't know. Finally we located N., the checkpoint commander, and understood that they're "wanted for interrogation." The interrogations were carried out behind the humanitarian lane. The youths were taken there one by one, after they once again emptied their pockets and lifted their shirts at the checkpoint. They were treated the same way a second time (actually, it was the third time, since they'd already gone through the checkpoint) by a soldier who stood next to the humanitarian lane and brought them over to the closed room. Each interrogation lasted, on average,11-15 minutes.
9:00 We asked the commander that the soldiers not point their weapons directly at the youths, and not to shout at them threateningly when he returns their ID cards, and also not to conduct the body searches so rudely, in front of everyone, including women passing through the humanitarian line. Our requests were granted. We also made clear to him, as well as by phone to the humanitarian office, that detaining the people as a group creates a situation in which the last ones will have to wait three hours, after they were already detained for half an hour before we arrived. It was clear that he also wasn't happy with the additional burden placed on the checkpoint - to handle these detainees and guard them. They were moved over to the pen, weapons were no longer pointed at them, and their number quickly decreased. Some were released without being interrogated. One was older, a truck driver from Ramallah, holding a valid entry permit. He went over on his own to the checkpoint commander and asked to be taken care of. At first there was no response. Since we witnessed his appeal we took down his particulars, went over to the DCO representative and to the commander, arguing that the man (married) will lose a day of work. They immediately took steps to reduce the time he had to wait.
9:30 A youth who refused to answer questions and/or do something he was asked to do when he was being checked was detained as punishment. Once again we went over, and reminded them that it is forbidden to detain people in order to punish them. The checkpoint commander consented, and the person was released after half an hour. It was generally a nervous and tense day at the checkpoint, and you could see this in the actions of those who were checking, who sometimes raised their voices and urged the people on. Nevertheless, in the midst of all the difficulties and the disorder, it should be noted that the checkpoint commander quietly acted to improve procedures from the humanitarian standpoint.
There was only light traffic in the vehicle lane.
10:15 Three detainees remained from the group of youths. The checkpoint also began to empty out. The number of people passing through declined.
Za'tara-Tapuach intersection - a few cars waiting to be checked.