'Awarta, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Wed 17.12.08, Morning
Translation: Suzanne O.
Summary: At Beit Furiq people cross freely (in part) with random checks. The market stalls in Huwwara have been thrown out.
7:10 a.m. Marda - the road is open. Zeita is closed as previously.
It is not crowded: it's empty from the west; from the north there are 6 - 8 vehicles in the queue. A bus awaits the completion of its inspection in the car park.
The car park is empty and deserted. The yellow barrier is open. At the roadblock two soldiers move around the vehicle lane. Those coming from the direction of Beit Furiq cross freely; they hardly slow down. From the direction of Nablus the traffic is slower and, within a few minutes, one of them is thoroughly inspected. As already noted the barrier within the roadblock is closed at 9:00 p.m., after that the guard in the look-out post must be called out.
We popped over to Beit Furiq town to find out how things are and how they feel. According to the mayor the situation is better than in the past. Up to now no problems have been raised. We advised him to publicize, in their own way, the DCO and our telephone numbers in case of problems or emergencies.
Two vehicles cross quite quickly with no inspection.
A sad day
From afar we noticed that the car park is half empty. This is quite unusual compared to recent times. As soon as we entered we were surrounded by stallholders in the hope that we can help them. The order to close them down immediately and to throw them out of the roadblock had just been received. Border Control jeeps surround the stalls, soldiers and an officer get out of them, and the DCO officer, Abu Rukon, is also there. There is obvious frustration and emotion on everyone's face but they are behaving with relative restraint.
Yesterday they received permission to stay and today they are again being thrown out. There is no clear, consistent policy.
We did all that we could, talking to Abu Rukon, Zaharan's replacement, as the officer responsible for the crossings and also contacted Zaharan (who is now the Operations Officer). We stressed that the 'café' at Za'atra/Tapuach Junction for the settlers and the soldiers is continuing to expand, and no one says a word, while here the stall holders are being evicted when this is their paltry living and it's being taken away from them. We demanded that they check and compare! We reminded them that Huwwara roadblock is a 'central station' and as long as this is the case, i.e.: somewhere that hundreds of thousands of people pass through, it is natural that minimal commerce develops for the good of the people. It is a humanitarian issue. We also noted that we have been observing the disappearance of facilities for the Palestinians at the roadblock and nothing has been done about it. Of course the soldiers observed that they also have no facilities here, and that those that were here were unacceptable. Really!
We responded to the argument that the stalls have to be closed down because neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian DCO's have provided them with health certificates by asking whether the stall at Za'atra has a certificate?! Does it also serve Palestinians?!
The situation was on the verge of violence all the time because the soldiers at first were unable to remove the iron chains. We did not leave because of the possibility of violence breaking out. The soldiers actually listened to us.
It was finally agreed that representation of the stall holders be made in the form of a letter, signed by all of them, to the DCO. Zaharan promised that the matter will be looked into again.
(We found out in the evening that the letter was not received yesterday because they were required to type it so that it should be a seemly, polite, approach to the ruler!!! We will deal with this too today.)
We left them to pass the copy of the letter to the Palestinian DCO too.
By 10:30 a.m., all the stalls were loaded onto vehicles but not before a threat was uttered: "If you are not out of here in 5 minutes, we'll throw you out". Only a newspaper stand was left and its owner managed to sell a few - until he too was sent away. Well, even intellectual nourishment is not appropriate in a Palestinian transport centre.
In the end the anger and frustration found a way out in an argument between them and drivers. A fist fight broke out which was stopped with the help of Palestinians and soldiers.
We took the telephone numbers of the representatives of the stall holders, those from the northern roadblock too, to be able to be in contact with them and promised to continue to help.
Micky had spoken to Mor, the MK Chaim Oron's secretary, by the time we got home and we spoke to Abu Rukon and Zaharan again too.
Al the time we were at the roadblock the numbers crossing were relatively few. We did not observe any problems. Neither were we removed from our observation point close to the checkpoint.
In the vehicle lane: relatively few vehicles entered Nablus neither being held up nor checked. Conversely, from the direction of Nablus, every car was inspected quite slowly and thoroughly.
There are 4 vehicles from the north; there are no jams at all.