'Anabta, 'Azzun, Beit Iba, Qalqiliya, Mon 29.12.08, Morning
There is a long line of cars exiting the town. We count up to 20 but cannot see the end. Soldiers are checking the IDs of riders in both Israeli and Palestinian cars exiting and thus holding up the line. As we watch, the checking is getting slower and the line longer. I speak to one of the soldiers (reserve) suggesting that they open another line to relieve the pressure but he replies that this is not possible as they don't have sufficient manpower. Despite this, the 2 soldiers responsible for checking cars entering Kalkilya are sitting and drinking coffee!
The line gets longer. Even checking taxis with no passengers are checked. One soldier enquires where we are from. After we reply we receive sarcastic comments.
A taxi with 6 women is stopped and the women are made to get out. It is absurd that pedestrians crossing out of Kalkilya can exit without any check.
07.40 Reinforcements arrive. 6 soldiers are checking each car. Meanwhile Palestinians carrying big bags pass freely on foot. The dog handlers arrive.
07.50 It has taken 1 hour for vehicles to get through the checkpost.
08.05 Azoun is open but there are 2 army jeeps on the opposite side of the road watching.
08.50 Beit Iba – Quiet reigns. There are about 5 lorries exiting but very little pedestrian traffic.
9.20 Anabta – The dog handlers are here. We are asked to stand on the opposite side of the road which we do and witness the most humiliating scene as a group of 6 Palestinians is made to get out of from their taxi while a dog handler checks it. While the dog is outside the taxi, sniffing around the wheels etc, there is no objection from the Palestinians; however, the handler then admits the dog inside the vehicle. There are immediate protests from the Palestinians. The dog is dirty – there is a pool of mud by the side of the car through which the dog, which is now climbing all over the seats, has passed. The handlers ignore the protests. I approach and ask to speak to the officer in charge who is already on his way over. He asks that we not interfere as the soldiers need to do their job. I speak to him quietly and ask him if there is no alternative to the scene described above. He is pleasant and understanding but answers in the negative. I then ask him: "if this were your car, how would you feel?" He replies that he would probably go crazy! I ask him if it were not possible to put a sheet over the seats, at least to avoid dirtying the interior of the car. He replies that he regrets that this is not possible. The scene is extremely frustrating and the Palestinians return to the car with angry comments directed at us.
10.15 Teenim crossing. We ask to be allowed to go through to Jebara but are refused and told to turn right and go on the Palestinian road Tulkarm-aras. We wait in line at the Aras checkpoint which is quiet. The soldiers on duty are checking the few cars efficiently and quickly.
11.20 We return to Kalkilya where chaos and pandemonium rule. The soldiers have decided to do an exercise and no one is going through. We depart frustrated.
There is obviously an alert and security level is high, but some of the scenes we have witnessed today could have been avoided.