Awarta, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Sha`ar Shomron (Qasem), Za'tara (Tapuah), Wed 6.8.08, Morning

Observers: 
Naomi L., Chana A. (reporting)
06/08/2008
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Morning

Translator:  Charles K.

6:40  Shomron Gate - no checkpoint going east.

7:02  Za'tara . 
Two lanes operating from the north.  A raised booth has been installed next to the middle lane.  A dog is checking commercial vehicles in the plaza.  When he's finished, the dog gets to play with a ball.

7:10  5 cars from the west.

7:11  8 cars from the north.  A bus sent to the plaza continues on its way 4 minutes later. 

While we were here, there was a short period when only one lane was open, and then the line grew long.

7:25  We left.

7:38  Huwwara  
3 lanes open, the x-ray machine isn't in use.  There's a DCO representative present - he apparently sees what goes on, but doesn't make his presence felt
At 8:30 4 lanes were open, but the number of people on line didn't decrease.

This morning there are many people going through the checkpoint, between a few dozen to more than 100 (a rough estimate) on line to leave the city.

We asked people how long they've been waiting on line, and they say "an hour."  We moved over to stand near the "humanitarian lane," in order to time how long it takes people and cars leaving the city to get through the checkpoint.  It took 8 minutes for a person to go through on foot, and 5 minutes per car.  It's hard to explain the discrepancy between what people told us, and our measurements (later, when we returned to the shed, one of the people, a physician on his way to work, complained to us that he waited an hour and a quarter before getting through - and that was in the "humanitarian line"!  We timed it again, and this time the wait lasted 9 minutes.  EAPPI activities told us later that 3 buses with children on the way to a swimming pool were on line.  They timed the buses waiting an hour and a quarter to get through). 
As we stood next to the "humanitarian lane," I., the 2nd lieutenant, introduced himself as the commander and "briefed" [his word] us:  don't go over the blue line, don't talk to Palestinians in the shed, don't go in the back to see whether there are detaineesinfo-icon.  And then, "Oh, yes.  Don't talk to the soldiers."  "Because they don't like you very much."  If there are any questions or problems, he's there to deal with them, so go to him. 
A conversation began.  We asked him why, if standing near the booths interferes with the work, Women in Blue and White are allowed to move around freely.  I. "doesn't know" what Blue/White is.  We reminded him of the flag flying over the booth.  He still pretends he doesn't know what we're talking about:  "An Israeli flag?"  OK, he finally says, "You're unpopular."  The cat's out of the bag.

8:15  A car with consular plates nears the booth for cars entering.  It doesn't stop at the red line marked on the road.  The soldier in the booth tenses up, yells at the driver "move back," and points his gun in his face.  The driver doesn't move.  A lieutenant suddenly appears and comes over to calm things down.  The driver's documents are checked, and the car continues on its way.

Checking people on foot involves the familiar ritual:  removing belts, taking things out of pockets and placing them on the counter, often lifting shirts, and in the background, in addition to the beeping of the magnemometer, the soldiers shouting from one booth to the next as they read ID numbers aloud.

8:35  A detainee is put in a cubicle to be searched.

A babyinfo-icon is crying in the background.  A female soldier directs a woman covered from head to foot to come with her.  She's the baby's mother.  The soldier sees the baby crying, strokes him and speaks to him sweetly.  This has no effect.  He keeps crying, anxious for his mother.  The soldier and the woman go over to the cubicle where women are searched.  The soldier isn't able to open the door, they go over behind the "humanitarian booth."  When they return the woman takes the child in her arms and it immediately stops crying.

9:11  The detainee is released and continues on his way.

9:15  We left.

We drove to the Awarta checkpoint. 
Commercial vehicles entering and leaving, traffic not very heavy.  A soft drinks truck enters, a similar truck leaves, an ambulance goes through.  There's a dog handler on site.

9:23  A little past the turn to Awarta a military vehicle stands on the side of the road, two soldier next to it.  Not far away is a goatherd with a herd of goats.  The soldiers chase him away from the road.  We asked them what was going on, and one of them volunteered to explain that "they" bring the "sheep" near the road, and then one of the sheep purposely jumps onto the road, which endangers those driving (the Jews, of course, since that's a road that Palestinians are forbidden to use), who could be killed.

9:30  Beit Furik

There are rumors at Beit Furik that the checkpoint will be removed, and there will be free passage.  People want so much to believe the rumors that they're convinced they're already not checking.  But, when we came down from the "café" to the checkpoint we saw that ID's were being checked and that cars were stopping next to the soldiers before continuing to Nablus.  Here, too, the soldiers are shouting out the Palestinians' ID numbers.

10:30  We left Beit Furik.

10:53  Za'tara:  15 cars from the north, 1 from the west.

11:5  Shomron Gate.  There's already a checkpoint to the east.