'Atara, Qalandiya, Mon 3.11.08, Afternoon
On Road No. 60, on the way to Atara, we noticed a great many
army and police vehicles. Shortly after the turn-off east to Ma'aleh
Michmash settlement we pulled over by a group of 10 Palestinian men
who were standing by the roadside. Two police vehicles were parked
on the opposite side of the road. In answer to our questions,
the Palestinians (residents of Michmash Village) told us that a group
of their villagers who were picking olives in their orchard west of
Road 60 had been attacked earlier that afternoon by more than 40 masked
setters from the illegal Megaron settlement who threw stones at them
and sprayed them with canisters of gas. The Palestinians who were attacked
in the orchard had phoned their friends back in the village who had
gone and called the police from the Benyamin police station. The
group of Palestinians that we met had been sent by the police, after
they dispersed the settlers, to register a complaint back at the station.
The men told us that two settlers had been arrested.
On reaching Atara, we parked along the roadside at the bottom of the
hill and walked up to the CP at the top. From the distance we
could see that there was no line of cars on the road from Bir Zeit and
that the lines from the other two directions were only two cars long.
But when we reached the top of the hill, the soldiers began to slow
things up and within a few minutes there was a line of 40 vehicles inching
up the road from Bir Zeit. After about 20 minutes at the CP a
jeep drove up and the officer inside ordered us to move our car which,
he said, was interfering with traffic on the route. (When asked
where we could park our car he suggested [ironically] that we leave
it in an Arab village where people would be happy to help MachsomWatchers.)
Qalandiya - Two passageways were operating (1 and 4), with
about 30 people waiting in each. The carousels at the entrance
to the CP were locked and a crowd, of about 60, was waiting in the northern
shed. We telephoned the humanitarian hotline and also to Mahdi,
commander of the passage unit. Within a short while the lines
began to move forward. Mahdi told us that he had cut short his
soldiers' snack time and sent them back on duty to deal with the crowd.
Ten minutes later the lines were still long with about 120 people waiting,
however by 5 PM there was no longer any line in the northern shed.
We decided to go through the CP and see what was doing at the vehicle
CP. We clocked the wait at 10 minutes before the carousels in
the northern shed and another 10 minutes in the passageway, 21 minutes
in all. At the vehicle CP traffic was flowing. From afar
we could see that the line of vehicles at Atarot CP was very long, as
usual. On returning to the pedestrian CP, after about 20 minutes,
we found that there were no lines at all.
As we were preparing to leave Qalandiya
at 6 PM, a family with two little children, one in a baby carriage,
came up to us. The father complained that the soldiers had refused
to open the "Humanitarian Gate" for them and had ordered them
to go away. Only after the father had insisted was the gate opened,
allowing the family to pass through.
Three Palestinian men, from Bethlehem,
also came up to us. They told us that their ID's had been taken
by BP soldiers in the commercial center of Ramat Eshkol (a neighborhood
in West Jerusalem) on Sunday afternoon. We phoned a series of
police stations and BP stations but the ID's were nowhere to be found.
We continued to call on Tuesday morning until the realization sunk in
that we would not find the ID's. When we told that to the Palestinians,
one of them said that the soldier who had taken the cards had passed
them to his friend and told him to throw them in the trash.