Beit Furik, Huwwara, Jit, Za'tara (Tapuah), Thu 18.9.08, Afternoon
Translation: Yfat D.
Shomron gate -
The police was inspecting the incoming traffic to the West bank and a line of about ten Israeli cars was plodding along. When we returned, at 8:30 p.m., the line was even longer (about 20 cars).
Marda - Both entrances are open.
Not only was the entrance closed but piles of construction waste were mounted to make the passage of pedestrians even more difficult. Two cars were waiting for workmen on the outer side of this obstruction. Soldiers had been cursing here several minutes before, threatening to blow up the cars' tiers, and uttering "I will fuck your mother". We obtained the drivers' phone numbers and gave away our own; however, they did not phone us up. When we called them later, they informed us that the police had shown up and had fined them 1200 new shekels each (they did not stand on the main road but after the turn to Zeita). Cabs and private cars were letting down Zeita and Jama'in residents on road 5 (Shomron crossing) and these needed to climb or bypass the obstructing piles and eventually had to seek another ride to the village aloft the mountain.
2:30 p.m. - Za'tara (Tapuach) -
We observed this checkpoint for ten minutes during which there was no line from the direction of Nablus on the West - the passage is quick without inspections with the exception of a single random car whose passengers IDs are examined for about five minutes. There were two inspection stations.
We received news from Zacharia that settlers have set on fire a field above Madama (north to the Yitzhar settlement). We drove on road 60 towards Jit.
Indeed there was a large fire with two focal points on the mountain. A big police force was standing idle after the turn towards Yitzhar settlement. We did not observe any fire trucks or army forces in the area of the fire. We continued towards Jit, because we did not want to cross a white line while making a U-turn. A Hummer with soldiers was standing in front of Gilad farm, while another big fire was blazing in the fields of, I believe, Far'ata village. Above the road, on Tal village grounds, we observed a novel structure with a roof of red bricks. Isn't that an illegal stronghold that should be evacuated?
We have seen many security-, civilian administration-, and police forces, as well as plain Hammers along the route of our drive. There was an ad hoc checkpoint in Jit junction and two Palestinian cars were standing there, one of which had its hood open. We stood far off, in a parking bay to avoid a parking ticket and Yfat approached to take photos (again, Yehudit and myself remained in the car fearing the police). The Palestinian cars were released immediately. The policemen aggressively shouted to Yfat to refrain from taking their pictures. Then, they approached us threatening to give us a ticket if we did not drive away.
3:20 p.m. - Huwwara -
As soon as we arrived we observed two soldiers running with their guns drawn towards a frightened young man, standing near the turnstile of those entering Nablus. They seized him, forcing his hands behind his back and it seemed as if they were about to beat him up. After passing the turnstile, Yfat followed them and filmed the scene. The soldiers began threatening that they will confiscate her camera and that taking pictures is strictly prohibited. Yfat, however, quietly kept her grounds and continued filming. Once I., the commander of the checkpoint, and T., the DCO officer, arrived the violent atmosphere subsided. We all passed back to the exit side of the checkpoint (the Huwwara side), and the young man was forced into a solitary compound. The soldiers claimed that he had tried to exit Nablus through the entrance turnstiles. T. and the commander warned us not to approach the compound. I replied that I will approach the compound if I sensed that the young man was in any kind of danger.
Later on I approached the man and obtained his phone number, however, the commander sent me away and (possibly) confiscated the phone as immediately after the detainee's phone was unavailable.
We asked T. to be considerate and not delay the man for too long as it was Ramadan. T. promised, in the name of the commander, that by 6 p.m. he would be released.
We phoned the "Humanitarian hotline" to try our luck there. It turned out that they were completely incompetent (recently I have tried numerous times to call the DCO representative Z. and the line was unavailable. Therefore, I assumed that he was transferred from there and did not even attempt to contact him this time. What a shame).
About 150 people were waiting in three organized lines. Most of them were young students. They claimed that the waiting time was about one hour and that the soldiers tended to curse them a lot. There were no shouts, yet the soldiers that examined the men demanded from some to remove their shoes, and from others to stand facing the cement wall and spread their hands and legs (a kick to each leg made verbal communication dispensable). They then physically examined the body of each man, even between his legs. The men departed with their belts in their hands, and once in a while a soldier harshly drove the young ones away, who once they have passed the turnstile, tried to get dressed and organized. Many things were slipping away from their hands as following the inspection all their belongings had been in disarray (phone, wallet, money, keys, etc.) . A long line of cars, almost reaching the rotary, awaited to enter Nablus. Although the inspection was swift, the soldier in charge had disappeared after every two-three cars and the rest remained waiting.
5:05 p.m. - Awarta -
There were no lines. Regular cars were also passing. One truck awaited to enter Nablus and two to depart. The passage was swift. The attendant complained that since passage was made easier in this CPs he had no work and that he had 15 children to support.
5:15 p.m. - Beit Furik -
Eight cars awaited at the Beit Furik exit to reach the checkpoint and the first three drivers in line reported one by one that they had waited already 30 minutes. They asked us to "do something". On the Nablus side there are three cars.
There are two detainees in the detainee shade. The first is elegantly dressed and in his possession a bag with a tray filled with Baklava and other baked goods. The second, a sixteen years old young man from the nearby Salem village was sitting bended with his arms cuffed behind his back and his eyes covered with flannelette. The checkpoint commander prohibited us from communicating with them yet was willing to hand us their IDs so we could investigate in the matter. The elegant man was released at 5:45 p.m. but he was not allowed to enter Beit Furik (On Thursday everyone passes, said the DCO officer!). The cuffed young man moved restlessly, and was obviously in distress and in pain from his cuffs. Yfat asked to release his hands. The checkpoint commander replied "That is how he arrived here and how he will be taken away". Once in a while the detainee stood up and remained standing for fifteen minutes or so. The soldiers claimed he had thrown stones. After a while other soldiers would arrive, the ones that had arrested him in the first place (he was taken from his house and brought to the checkpoint), and would assert that they had seen him throwing a Molotov cocktail. A policeman that would come later to take him would even state that they had photographed him throwing it. Since I have friends in Salem, I phoned to inform the family (at that time we did not know that he had been taken from his home). Later, in that evening, when I was already back in Tel Aviv, I received a phone call from a friend that had visited the family of the young detainee on that same day. She informed me that he had spent that afternoon with them in his uncle's house until they left.
6 p.m. - we separated, as I wanted to check on the detainee in Huwwara, Yfat wanted to remain with the cuffed detainee and refused to abandon him in his state of blinded solitude, and Yehudit decided to stay in Beit Furik as a big load started to accumulate there (without any justification - as how many people pass at this forsaken checkpoint?) and the soldiers inspected those waiting with maddening leisure.
6:10 p.m. - Huwwara -
The detainee was still in the coppund and a second detainee had joined him one hour earlier. The first man kneeled down and prayed but his friend told us that he had earlier requested water from the soldiers to wash his hands before prayer yet they had refused him.
The soldiers refused to speak with me, and therefore I could not find out the reason for detaining the second man. Since 5 p.m. T.(from the DCO) had not been seen anywhere and had not been answering his phone. Later we would be informed that his battery was empty. Again and again I tried to phone the "humanitarian hotline" ("still checking") and asked to release the detainees because the time of the fast break was approaching.
As it darkened the checkpoint became empty. Rats started to exit their holes and were running between my legs...
A blind old man guided by two six year old children was trying to pass through the road. The soldier sent him to the end of the humanitarian line. The old man's pleas were useless ("there needs to be order!").
6:50 p.m. - the first detainee was released.
A police jeep arrived. It turned out the checkpoint commander called the police because I had spoken with the detainees. The policeman, Camil Mustafah, screamed at me not to disturb the soldiers. I asked him whether, when he had arrived, he had seen me disrupting the soldiers, as I was standing quietly, outside the checkpoint, near what had been once the detainee shade. The checkpoint commander claimed that I had spoken with the detainees before and I answered that I had only asked them for their details and since when they had been detained. The policeman screamed at me again that if I would disturb the soldiers again he would have no problem to take me to the Shomron police station (by the way, the commander had already threatened us before with calling the police "I know nothing would be done to you but you would be taken to the police station and I would be rid of you that way" - he said).
An ambulance arrived, its siren blowing urgently. The soldiers approached it slowly and even managed to stop a woman on the way, asking "where do you think you're going?".
The soldier opened the back door, almost immediately closed it, and waived the driver to continue on his way. All this took about three minutes. Three minutes separating life from death. The soldier laughed to his friend "you should have seen the person laying there. Dead, brother, dead!" he giggled....
7:10 p.m. - the father of the second detainee arrived, holding dates in one hand and a bottle of water in the other. He asked me for permission to hand them to his child that had not broken the fast yet. I approached the checkpoint commander yet he refused to talk to me. I walked away and sent the father to him but the commander screamed at him to exit the checkpoint and that he himself will approach him whenever he would feel like it. The checkpoint was empty. There were no people waiting to pass and the commander had no reason not to hear the father (He already knew it was the father and also knew of his request, because I had told him about it before he refused to speak with me) He turned his back to the father and condescendingly walked away in the direction of Nablus. The father stood shamed, the dates and the water in his hands, and waited. Fifteen minutes he waited until the soldier bothered to return to him and with a smug smile informed him "I cannot help you".
It has been five years since I started visiting these checkpoints. I have never cried to date. Yet in front of the embarrassed father, with his dates and water, I broke into tears. Not because of him. Because of us. Because of what has become of us. Because these are our sons. Without compassion nor humanness. Because I was ashamed.
The father tried to console me " Do not worry. He is still young. He does not mean it. They will soon let my son go. Don't cry. It will be all right..."
I decided that my presence might be nocuous to the detainee and so I drove to Beit Faruk. We exchanged phone numbers and the father informed me at 7:40 p.m. that his son was finally released.
6:00 p.m. (Yehudit's report) - Beit Faruk -
A big load of cars formed on both sides of the checkpoint. Only two soldiers were inspecting, and only one passage open. The crowd that awaited was grouchy and threatened to storm the checkpoint and. Recurring phone calls to the "humanitarian hotline" ("we are aware of the situation and trying to help...") were used more as a therapeutic measure for us, "to do something," rather than being of some use.
7:00 p.m. - the Ramadan fast has ended for the day yet the line of cars from Nablus is so long that its end is invisible.
7:06 p.m. - The DCO representatives arrived, Z. and T., after receiving a phone call form Miki. They investigated regarding the cuffed young man and then opened a second inspection passage.
They let us pass an apple over to the cuffed young detainee (they claimed he received water) and for that they even uncovered his eyes and uncuffed his hands. The police arrived (Camil Mustafah with a raged expression "You are also here? Why aren't you going home?") to seize him, but Z. had meanwhile spoken with the detainee's father and uncle, who had arrived to the checkpoint earlier, and allowed them to return home and bring the detainee some food. At the same time, the soldiers that had arrested him in the first place arrived and the policeman took their testimony.
We spoke to Z. who had complained that we hadn't called him earlier (as mentioned above I believed he had been transferred away). He also claimed that on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays of the Ramadan everyone passes to Beit Furik (and what about the detainee who was not allowed to pass into Beit Furik?).
We should have checked that. He also spoke of so and so new instructions regarding the Watch checkpoint. We shall see.
7:50 p.m. - we depart.
8:10 p.m. - Za'tara - one inspection point, two cars from the direction of Nablus and one from the West.
8:40 p.m. - "Sha'ar Shomron" - there are no detainees.