'Azzun 'Atma, Mon 23.3.09, Morning

Observers: 
Nati A., Nadim, Hamdan, Rina Ts. (reporting)
23/03/2009
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Morning

Translation: Galia S.

The gate was closed for an hour as the soldiers (Border Police) didn't know how to manage it. Beyond the fence, a crowd of over 100 workers who had to get to work fast was surging forward.
Although officers arrived, including the brigade commander, as late as 08:25 they didn't finish checking those who had been waiting since 06:00.

One worker was wounded in his face when a soldier pushed the iron gate at him.

A man in charge of security from Elkana settlement participates with the soldiers in operating the checkpoint. One of the officers says that this muddle has been going on almost daily for two weeks. This is why it is important to visit the checkpoint every day.

From the Qalqiliya DCO [District Coordination Office of the IDF Civil Administration that handles passage permits] help arrives an hour and a half later, when the whole mess is over.
 

It's amazing how serenely the workers react to the helplessness of the checkpoint operators, which could cost them the loss of a precious day of work. If in this tense situation someone threw a stone, it could end in loss of life.

07:00 – The gate has been closed for the last 30 minutes. On the village side workers are crowding the place, having passed the checkpoint on the northern side of the village, including magnetometer and computer checks. It's hard to estimate the number of the people because of the slope that is beyond the fence and it is impossible to see. There are over 100 people that we can see.


On our side there are workers who have come back from a night work, students, living in that part of the village which is on the northern side of the fence, on their way to school and contractors waiting for workers. A soldier explains that they have closed the fence because the workers didn't stand in two lines as they required. Obviously, the more the time has dragged, the more workers have gathered and the chance of bringing things under control looks slimmer. Everyone is in a hurry to get to work. It's already late and they may lose a day of work. Therefore, they surge forward in order to be the first in line.

In the meantime, all those who speak Arabic, including our Nadim, are trying to convince the workers on the other side of the fence to stand in an orderly line.

We call the DCO of Qalqiliya (Shai).

07:25 – They let the children enter the village. The two parents who have to drive them are allowed to enter but it has taken some arguing.


More vehicles with officers arrive, among whom the brigade commander (lieutenant-colonel) and the operations commander (captain).they are holding consultations, which prove fruitless. A civilian carrying a weapon is with them. The man is in charge of the security from the neighboring settlement Elkana, who acts as a soldier at the checkpoint.


07:30 – Finally, the gate is opened by the same settler even though they don't stand in line. He determines who will enter, one by one, for the inspection.

The inspection is conducted slowly and incompetently. Despite the great number of soldiers, only one soldier checks documents and permits and two women-soldiers write down each worker's details in a notebook. The purpose of this course of action is to ensure that no "illegals" [in Israel without a residence permit] will return through the gate. In other words, those who didn't register in the morning will be unable to return in the evening. (By the way, the illegals return without inspection through Qalqiliya passage, which is quite a long way for Nablus residents, for example, and also for the contractor who drive them.) However, when so many people are waiting for the inspection, it's not a very wise thing to do and that's an understatement. Half an hour later they realize it, too, and start working faster. One woman-soldier goes on writing down randomly as much as she can but she doesn't detain the people. A little after 08:00, 20-25 people pass within 5 minutes, but earlier, when the soldier at the gate couldn't handle the line, there were a few breaks.


07:45 – Another break. A worker comes out, wounded in his face because the soldier has thrusted at him the iron gate.


07:55 – The workers who have come back from night shift are allowed to enter after having waited for 2 hours.

08:00 – About 100 workers are still waiting on the other side of the fence, but now the checks are quick.

A man arrives with a cake. He lives in Nablus and he has returned from a night shift in Bnei B'raq. His employer has brought him here, but he is not allowed to enter the village. The brigade commander explains that, according to the instructions, he is supposed to pass through Qalqiliya passage. Finally, after we intervene and say that he can, for once, be more flexible, he agrees to let him pass, but first he has to wait for the line to end.


During the whole time we called the DCO of Qalqiliya – 6 times – and when we got no answer we called the Humanitarian Center. Once we were told that the soldiers at the checkpoint had reported that the gate was open when it really was closed. I asked to send someone, but only at 08:15 (more than an hour after we had notified them about the situation) a private was sent who, of course, didn't dare to tell the lieutenant-colonel what to do. He was just standing and looking like the rest of them and told us to keep our distance. At 08:25 Erez, the passage commander, arrived but then it was all over. Twenty people were still standing in line.

We left.