'Awarta, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Mon 29.12.08, Afternoon
Translation: Amit Y.
14:25, Za'tara/Tapuah Junc.
Three soldiers are standing at a checkpoint that usually isn't manned before the parking lot.
They don't stop us, but cars with Palestinian license plates are stopped and one of the soldiers checks IDs of all passengers.
At the regular checkpoint there is a long line of cars waiting to pass from the direction of Nablus.
I cannot see the end of the queue; one of the drivers tells me he's been waiting for 20 minutes. At the roadblock itself soldiers conduct sample checks.
A bus and a cab are detained at the parking lot. In the bus we see mostly old people and children, but the soldiers took all the IDs for a check. It took them about 15 minutes, after which bus with all its passengers were granted permission to continue to Ramallah.
Two Yeshiva boys pass us; as they walk by, one of them spits directly at us. They continue without stopping to the checkpoint, where they begin to chat with the soldiers. We follow to the checkpoint to tell the Yeshiva boys what we think of their disgusting behavior, but the soldiers immediately tell us that we are interfering with their work and that we must leave the place. When we protest, a woman soldier threatens that she will stop Palestinian passage until we leave. Meanwhile, the Yeshiva boys leave the checkpoint and so do we. Palestinian traffic resumes.
14:45 We continue to Huwwara, counting 20 cars waiting in line to pass south at ZA'tara/Tapuah.
14:55 Huwwara CP
The pedestrian checkpoint is almost entirely empty. S. tells us that university is on vacation and it's the Muslim New Year. But above all, he explains, anxiety is high. An army Jeep has been stationed at the entrance to his village for the last 24 hours; the soldiers have been threatening to block the road, making car travel in and out of the village impossible. People don't want to venture far from their homes because they fear not being able to return.
Two young men are waiting at the Detainees Area. One of them has been detained since 13:30. We speak with him and then with the checkpoint commander - the ID is being checked, the soldier insists. But a few minutes later he releases the young man. The Palestinian leave the Detainee Area and comes to talk with us, telling us that every time he passes through Huwwara, a similar scenario occurs - three hours detention and then release. Yael gives him a flyer in Arabic from The Association for Civil Rights and urges him to call them.
The second detainee seems especially young - maybe 15 or 16. Outside the detainee area Yael spots an electric saw wrapped in a transparent plastic bag. We ask a soldier about it and he replies that the saw seems suspicious and for this reason the teenager is being detained. "Does one need special permission to pass work equipment at the CP?" we ask. "No" the commander answers, "but this work equipment is dangerous, he can chop down 10 people with it." "And what exactly are you checking?" we continue to ask. "I'm looking for information about him; I'm checking whether he is dangerous."
At the cars' checkpoint there's also very little traffic. Here checkups are especially minor: no cars entering Nablus are checked, and at the exit there are only sample checks. The DCO officer explains that special permits are no longer necessary for entering Nablus by car. For exiting, Nablus residents are required to carry special permits but others are not.
Because cars at the exit are checked by what looks like random sample, it seems that these new procedures are enforced inconsistently.
15:55 The teenager and his saw are still detained. We remind the soldiers that this detention is senseless and that by now it's also long.
We decide to continue to Beit Furik and to return to Huwwara later to see what has become of the detainee.
16:05 Beit Furick checkpoint
There's a line of cars waiting on their way out of Nablus. Soldiers conduct sample checks. The checkpoint commander, who came to tell us that we are not aloud to remain where we stand, explains that since the assault on Gaza soldiers have returned to check cars at this CP.
The pedestrian checkpoint is wired closed; "they should take a cab, if they want to pass here" the soldier says.
No commercial vehicles. A dog, dog-trainer, and two soldiers sit around unemployed.
16:20 Back at Huwwara checkpoint
As we enter the parking lot a Police truck appears behind us. The truck enters the parking lot and drives around pretty fast; a policeman calls for someone over a loudspeaker. We park our car and get out; by the time I manage to arrive at the police truck I can only see a policeman shoving a young man into the passengers' cabin, the truck is in motion, the policeman quickly follows the Palestinian into the cabin, and the truck drives away.
What's going on? Cab drivers who have been hanging out at the parking lot explain to us that a few minutes earlier these policemen gave the young man a ticket for driving without his seatbelt fastened. But the police made a mistake and gave the Palestinian the two copies of the ticket. After the young man drove away, the policeman realized his mistake and started a chase. Meanwhile the Palestinian, also realizing the mistake, tore the ticket and when the police arrived after him at Huwara he tried running away on foot. But the policeman apparently ran faster and arrested him.
We managed to get the young man's cell phone number; but when we try calling his phone is turned off.
We returned to the checking post; the teenager and saw have been released.
Traffic is still minimal.
16:45 We leave the roadblock.