Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 19.10.08, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
14:55 At the inner side of the former entrance (blocked with boulders, concrete slabs, soil piles and iron gate - to Zeita village, several soldiers are 'interviewing' a driver standing next to his van.
15:00 Za'tara Tapuach Junction is empty and quiet.
Facing the entrance to Beita village, two police jeeps lie in wait.
Huwwara Checkpoint 15:15
3 active checking posts, active x-ray truck
Starting 15:30, one hour and a half earlier than normal, two sniffer-dog trainers and their dog 'Shaft' are present and active.
DCO representative- Aassem, Checkpoint commander - ??
Dina the MPwoman (who is a tad quieter since we last sang her praises) orders a Palestinian to pour out the contents of his bag, object by object, onto the dusty-filthy checkpoint concrete floor to prove his innocence.
The special side line for women children and elderly is long and slow. Men in the waiting lines report half an hour to an hour waiting. Upon our arrival, the concrete cubicle for detainees is empty.
The soldier checking vehicles entering Nablus points his short weapon towards the chest and head of the drivers, and when necessary, to their bottoms as they open their trunks. He stands at zero-distance from them, and this is no metaphor.
The line of Nablus-bound vehicles is heavier than usual, everything and everyone is checked including international organization vehicles and ambulances not on emergency missions. Many vehicles are turned back, refused entry, about one out of every five. The reason appears to be the soldiers' limited knowledge of the permits policy, because when the DCO rep. arrives on the scene, there are no more delays.
The number of vehicles waiting is relatively large too, which complicates things both for entry and exit.
17:45 - the checkpoint is nearly empty now, only one active checking post.
The sounds that emerge are mainly the voices of the MPwomen and a bespectacled soldier standing next to them. Barks, bellows, groans - that is what meets the ear.
Men standing in the shed after having been inspected and sent on are impatiently chased away, soldiers play around with a man's lighter - the 'inspection' business as usual, only a bit more quietly.
The Givati Brigade's purple flag waves proudly over the mid-lane post - the checkpoint is theirs!!
Beit Furik from 16:40
Observers: Hanna A., Tal H. (reporting)
On kids, lies and IDF spokesperson
Upon our arrival, we are greeted by a very anxious, very articulate father (fluent Hebrew, holds permits of entry and work in Israel, owns a factory, has much knowledge, experience and connections). This man lays out for us the following bit of surreal reality: Four seven-eight year old kids are being detained in the detainee pen at the checkpoint, he is not allowed to approach them, they have been caught by soldiers in a jeep and brought to the checkpoint for detention, as they were helping their neighbors pick olives in their olive grove near Beit Furiq village across the road. They have been in the pen for an hour now, the head of the village council is in the picture, the whole world is informed but nothing is moving.
We call the army "humanitarian" hotline, they promise to look into it. After ten minutes, we try again, the person we spoke to before (Tomer) is gone. We explain the scene to the new person (Gil'ad) who promises to look into it. We also report to our friend Noa, at home, who promises to call Zaharan of the DCO. Who in the meantime, we fine out, is being approached by phone by other people from the village.
Time passes. In the meantime - in or out of context with the above - over one-hundred pedestrians are already crowded on the other side of the checkpoint, and a long long line of vehicles, all waiting to be inspected in order to be allowed to proceed from town home to their nearby village. The air is thick with tension.
Nothing new on the junior front. We call Raya who contacts journalist Nir Yahav who calls us and hears all the above from us directly. We call the hotline again. This time, instead of a person, we get recorded music. Of the Jolly kind.
From the crowd beyond the checkpoint cries of impatience beginning to emerge, louder and louder.
In response, a very shrill siren is activated from the watch-shoot tower on the hill. For a long while. An alarming sound that may definitely be added to the long creative list of protection measures that our fragile State invents for its own defense.
On the phone front: Gilad from the hotline responds to our next call as follows: "The detention is for security reasons. Their identities are being checked now. I am aware of their age. Had I thought their detention was ungrounded, I would act to set them free."
The little detainee community grows as a young and very agitated man is sent to the pen to learn the proper behavior in a crowded waiting line with his impatient neighbors.
Developments on the junior front: The checkpoint commander allows the worried father who spoke to us to enter the pen and sit with the kids. Two hours after they were first brought in.
Noa tells us on the phone that Zaharan of the DCO is on his way to the checkpoint. As she speaks, our eyes see the blessed sight of the father walking away from the pen, followed by the four kids, like four ducklings, shivering with cold (the soldiers did not allow anyone to bring them warmer clothes) but mighty proud of themselves. Free to go.
18:00 We get back to Huwwara to join our shift mates, and leave soon afterwards as nothing was brewing and the CP emptied.
Epilogue: Nir Yahav, the journalist who spoke to us in "real time", called the IDF spokesperson and received the following response:
"These were three youngsters who threw stones towards Israeli vehicles traveling on the road next to Beit Furiq. They were held at the checkpoint until the Israeli civilian police arrived, at which time they were turned over to police procedures."
I repeat what my own eyes saw at the Beit Furiq Checkpoint: four children, ages 7-8, were brought by soldiers to the checkpoint and were detained there for two hours, unaccompanied inside the pen. Not youngsters. Not police. No procedures.
Seven-eight years old. (from their looks, I'd even say they were six years old)