Huwwara, Thu 4.12.08, Afternoon

Observers: 
Fathia I, Maya GZ (photos), Yehudit L (reporting & photos)
04/12/2008
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Afternoon
Guests: Bracha Z., Amos M.

Translated by LW

14:30 Huwwara
Checkpoint
A detainee is in isolation: crossed on the "apartheid road" known as "Madison Axis," which is forbidden to Palestinians – "settlers only!" That’s how it begins, We’ll see how it ends...
As on every Thursday, many students are returning home from a week of studies. Lively traffic at the checkpoint. Three positions open for youngsters: ID checks, belongings, taking off any item of clothing that contains metal – a side line for women, children, and the elderly is crowded.
From where we stand, we can see on the west side a trickle of settlers coming from Bracha and walking towards the square in front of Huwarra Checkpoint – not a routine sight. The checkpoint commander appears flustered and declares "Cessation of Life" – because of events with the settlers (we hadn’t heard news, but we could guess). He tells us to leave the area of the checkpoint, and transit through the checkpoint stops.

On the path to the entry turnstile for Nablus, where there is usually no check, three soldiers are stopping people passing to Nablus. There is no exit from Nablus. Crowds of people massing on both sides of the checkpoint with no possibility of passing. We are told that there is a problem with the settlers in the square. Some of us go there: we see endless lines, vehicles standing with no possibility of passing either way.


A bus driver tells us he is transporting children. After a while the children descend from the bus, and head in a long line towards the checkpoint.


In the square are there are 40 soldiers, Border Police and policemen. Facing them, by the hitchhiking station, are crowded settlers with wives and children. From time to time, one of the settlers is taken by the soldiers.
As we approach, the settlers prevent us from photographing. They come up very close, screaming and accusing us and the Palestinians of a variety of things. The soldiers stand close by without intervening.
A military functionary arrives and shows us a "military area" order closing the place to Israelis, journalists and foreigners. Presence on the spot is permissible only to Palestinians and settlers. A police officer moves us, carefully and delicately, to the other side of the road – and we return to the checkpoint.
Fathia tells the commander that it is pointless to stop traffic to Nablus because it only adds unnecessarily to the pressure on the spot, and indeed – pedestrian traffic is allowed to Nablus. But – the passers by are checked (usually not the case for pedestrians entering Nablus), and so the crowding remains as is.

We are told there is a warning about an armed man, but after a while the checking stops, and passage opens as usual. "Cessation of Life" is ended.


In the isolation pen, a new detainee – also caught using the "apartheid road," and punished by an hour and a half of detention. It is possible, all the time, to see settlers coming on that road from the direction of Itamar towards the square, with no one stopping them.
Around the square, hundreds of Palestinian vehicles are stuck, unable to move. Nevertheless, minibus traffic starts, each vehicle packed tight as they pull out of the parking lot and head back to Nablus. Turns out this is the only way to avoid the blockage of the square by the settlers.

The minibuses travel to Awarta, and from there – yes – on the apartheid road southward to wherever they are going. We would receive further confirmation of this in the evening from the second detainee. How did he get home? On the apartheid road, this time with permission (after serving his punishment time for exactly that offence).


At 17:15 we are able to move slowly in the direction of Huwarra, while there is still no movement in the other lane in the direction of Nablus. The line of cars stretches to the turn to Route 60, in the direction of Jit. For a moment we thought that the line ended there, but it continued within Huwarra itself. Scores of vehicles stuck. Maya (a new recruit who learnt at the beginning of the shift how to count... 36 vehicles at Zaatra...) Says "I’m not counting these cars..."

And the Palestinians – what patience!


Zaatra Checkpoint
Six cars from Nablus wait to be checked at the one functioning position. A police car. No crowding.