Beit Furik, Huwwara, Wed 24.12.08, Afternoon
Translator: Charles K.
Raining, stormy and definitely cold. The roads were flooded. It was hard for us to remain outside a long time at Huwwara, so we cut short our stay there. We paid particular attention today to the changes that have occurred.
Ariel - Kif-al-Hars junction:
We decided to see what's hidden behind the sign to Salfit. But nothing has changed, the road to Salfit is blocked near the entrance to Ariel. We returned to the junction and entered Kif-al-Hars. We saw the new checkpoint that has sprung up, not manned. We asked a youth from the village whether the exit to Route 5 is shut at night, and he said it wasn't. Open 24 hours a day. At first we though to drive to Hars, and saw that the PA is redoing the road, but because it was raining so hard we decided not to. It will be necessary to see whether Israel will prohibit Palestinian vehicles from driving on the new section of the road between the Barkan junction and the Ariel junction. Does the army intend to turn Route 5 into an apartheid road and force the Palestinians to take side roads (there's a Palestinian road parallel to Route 5, from Huwwara up to Inbus and Jama'in, past Zeita to Deir Istya and connects to the road from Emanuel. There are entrances from this road to Kif-al-Hars and to Haras).
Marda: Both exits are open.
Jama'in-Zeita: The entrance is still blocked by concrete cubes.
Huwwara: 15:10-15:55, 16:15-16:30
Vehicles: Taxis are allowed to enter and leave Nablus via Huwwara without special permission.
After 21:00 both entry and exit depend on where the taxi driver lives: A driver from Nablus can only enter, but not leave after 21:00; a driver who lives outside of Nablus (in Beita, for example), can only leave Nablus but not enter after 21:00. That's how the army insures that vehicles won't go through the checkpoint at night. In other words: having your cake and eating it too.
Unlike what I understood at first, travel east from Huwwara to Awarta is prohibited to Palestinians, as it has been in the past, as is driving west from the Awarta checkpoint (the soldiers set up a few cement blocks at the turn after the checkpoint).
Vehicles entering Nablus aren't checked. Soldiers are dismantling the inspection booth for entering vehicles.
16:20 At the vehicle exit from Nablus only two inspection lanes are open, and 52 vehicles are waiting on line (We went up the road toward Har B'racha in order to count them). I asked taxi drivers why people still go through the checkpoint on foot if all the taxis are allowed to enter Nablus. Their reply: Because there's a big traffic jam of cars leaving Nablus. He's right. Because of the stormy weather we didn't time how long it took for a car to go through after it got on line.
Despite the driving rain and the strong winds and the flooded road (it was 10 degrees outside, not counting the wind chill factor), vehicle inspections are conducted as usual - in other words, passengers have to get out and stand exposed in the rain and wind until the soldiers finish checking the vehicle. A call to the DCO doesn't succeed in changing this procedure.
Pedestrians: When we arrived (15:10) there were about 100 pedestrians, most of them young, at the checkpoint, with a few on the line off to the side. They stood huddled, freezing in the cold and the wind-driven rain. The army has spent so much money on this ....checkpoint, fences and more fences, concrete barriers and still more fences, but to erect some protection against the wind and rain - there's no money for that. Disgraceful!!!!
Only two lanes were open, and the inspections went slowly. Two Palestinian policemen serving in Hebron were each inspected for 4-5 minutes. Pedestrians waited 27 cold, wet, endless minutes to get through.
The lane off to the side was also open.
At about 15:40 a third lane opened for about 15 minutes, and reduced the number of people waiting. But after it closed the line grew again to about 80 people.
Two soldiers sheltering in the inspection booth. Taxis drive through rapidly. In reply to our question, they say they have orders to close both gates at 22:00: the one at the western end of the checkpoint, and the one at the eastern end of the parking lot for people coming from Beit Furik. We immediately contacted the DCO officer in charge of the terminals. He promised to deal with it, but we don't know whether he succeeded.
At about 17:30 we reached Azun-Atma. A few taxis waiting for passengers, but there are none. Taxi drivers I'm acquainted with say there are hardly any people today, there aren't any people returning from work. They tell us that a new army unit took over the checkpoint today (if it wasn't so sad, you would laugh at a report like that). We decide not to go down there.