Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Mon 12.1.09, Afternoon
Translator: Charles K.
Throughout our shift Palestinians would occasionally come over to us, angry about what our army was doing in Gaza. We didn't have many excuses. We told them we represent the other Israelis.
14:30 Tapu'ach junction.
The checkpoint for traffic from Israel: three cars waiting, inspected quickly.
The checkpoint for traffic from Nablus: 2 inspection lanes, 8 cars waiting on each. Not all cars are inspected, only younger drivers are checked.
15:00 Huwwara checkpoint
We were welcomed by Y., the commander, and I., the DCO representative. They explained that the area of the checkpoint is sterile (they referred to the letter from the brigade commander).
We stood in our assigned location, next to the turnstiles, taxi drivers on the other side seeking passengers. About 30 people waiting to go through the checkpoint. We timed it.
The inspection is very mechanical: the person arriving at the metal detector empties his pockets onto the shelf, proceeds to the MP, places his ID card in the appropriate slot. Turns around, retrieves his possessions, meanwhile his ID is checked, and if there's no problem it goes to the appropriate window, the person collects it and exits. Today people don't have to remove shoes and belts. Like a well-oiled machine, untouched by human hands. It takes 13 minutes from the time someone arrives until he completes the procedure. Things aren't too bad today, since there aren't many people; it's exam time and most students don't have classes.
15:30 The vehicle checkpoint.
12 vehicles waiting to leave Nablus. 2 inspection booths. Most of the cars aren't checked. From time to time people have to get out of the vehicles.
The truck for detecting explosives stands off to the side. The porter passes TV sets through for inspection.
One vehicle inspection booth closes. The soldiers went to relieve the one serving as lookout.
The vehicle inspection procedure: A car drives up to the soldiers and stops, the driver presents his documents. Backs up, lets the passengers out. Returns to the soldier. Gets out to open the trunk. Inspection of its contents, which may be passed through the metal detector. When the inspection is completed the passengers get back in and the vehicle is released.
The soldiers who left the booth march over to the watch tower, apparently for a coffee break. The booth reopens only at 15:00, after a quarter of an hour,. Meanwhile a line of cars has formed. I. says that today's a good day, only a 45 minute wait. Everything's relative; what would an Israeli citizen say if he had to wait 45 minutes to get on the Ayalon Freeway?
16:35 Beit Furik - Empty.
We don't see the soldiers. They must be in the watchtower, sheltering from the cold.
16:50 Back to Huwwara.
5 taxi drivers in detention. They're being punished, to teach them a lesson. The soldiers ceaselessly pursue taxi drivers who come too near the turnstiles looking for passengers.
Suddenly: We notice two more people being held in the inspection booth that was brought from the old checkpoint (on the far side of the turnstile). We ask I., who tells us "What are you talking about, that's not an inspection booth, it has no door or roof..." But we see that people are being held there. It turns out they're also taxi drivers, who were released after a talk with the commander and promises they made to him.
To the attention of Machsom Watch observers who go to Huwwara: Check whether there are detainees in the old inspection booth, which is hard to see from where we are "officially" stationed.
We returned to our station, and saw that the knafeh seller had joined the detainees. It turns out that a curfew had been imposed on Huwwara, and he was caught because he hadn't closed his shop fast enough. The Border Police ordered that he be detained at the checkpoint. While we were trying to find out what was going on, he disappeared, together with the taxi drivers.
17:20 We proceed to the ORG meeting , planning to buy falafel for our meeting, but unfortunately there's a "curfew" and all the stores in Huwwara village are closed. Why? The war in the south! That'll show them.