Irtah, Mon 6.4.09, Morning
04:35 – All is dark. At the entrance
from the direction of Tulkarm a dense mass of people are jamming into
the passage entrance. Karin is taking pictures.
04:40 – The first opening of the gate:
The first group pf people, mainly women, is leaving its place. They
are running, as if their lives depend on it, up to the other side of
the open space, entering fast through the gate. Some of them have taken
their shoes off in advance and, having already passed through the gate,
they are now collecting them with amazing speed. The turnstiles close
before the space is filled and reopen when it is almost empty. This
scene repeats itself.
The turnstiles open every 40-60 seconds,
depending on the size of the group that has made it to pass. The sight
is a little different from what we saw 10 days earlier, when each time
only 12-15 people made it to pass and run as fast as they could to the
other end. This time, the groups that pass in each opening, are of 30-50
people, sometimes even more, so that the general procedure is slower
but the number of people that pass each time is higher.
A sampling show (it is still dark):
05:24 - 05:31 – A group of 180 people
passes followed by a 3 minute break.
05:34 – A group of 30 people passes
and then, a break.
05:43 – 05:46 – Two groups of 50
plus a group of 30 people.
05:46 – A group of 35, another group
of 25 and still another of 35 people pass.
I go over to the exit to see what is
going on there. On the way a few people stop me and ask that we intervene
to change the opening hour of the checkpoint from 04:30 or 04:40 to
04:00. However, there are far less complaints than the first time I
was at this checkpoint, on Tuesday 27.3.09. True, this time I am also
asked to go and see the terrible things at the entrance, but mainly
by those who are waiting for workers while they themselves haven't passed
through the checkpoint.
05:55 – A lot of people are leaving
quickly but, unlike last time, most of them don't stop near us. They
say that 4 inspection posts (windows) are active. Some of them say that
the passage this time has been quicker. They offer a number of explanations
for that: fewer workers because of the recession, the last day before
the "closure" [blanket restriction of passage regardless of
permits] goes into effect, or our presence there.
Maybe our presence is something new but
almost everyone who comes out approaches us, asking that we come on
Sunday, not on Friday, in order to see how crowded the place is. Every
day an ambulance is called because of acts of violence.
The first to speak are the women standing
around us. They tell us about the violent behavior of the men. Then
groups of men come and tell us about the terrible situation at the entrance.
What they are asking is to open the checkpoint
earlier, have more inspection posts operate, and let them leave for
Israel through the northern passage as well, instead of making them
all, those who come from the north, from Jenin and up to Tulkarm and
Qalqiliya, leave through Irtah.
06:05 – Back at the entrance to the
premises. Suddenly the ground is cleared. There are no longer many people
waiting behind the first turnstiles which open every 30 seconds.
06:20 – A Red Cross representative
is here and it looks as if families of prisoners are starting to arrive.
Two more Red Cross representatives take care of them a little farther
06:30 – Workers who keep coming in
a steady, thin stream gather in front of the magnetic gate. Then come
the shouts: "You there! No, not you! You! Where are you going?
(The answer: Work) From here! Not from here! You, there, you look like
a problem to me!"
06:45 – Families start entering to
visit prisoners. A few workers arrive and pass.
I return to the exit.
The way out of the facility toward west:
It's easy to count the leaving people, as they have to pass through
the turnstile one by one. Standing there, I count them all, starting
with the first at 04:45 until 07:00 when the stream of leaving people
is thinner and sporadic.
04:45 – 04:50 – 61 people
04:50 – 05:00 – 160 people
05:00 – 05:10 – 210 people
05:10 – 05:22 – 370 people
05:22 – 05:30 – 175
05:30 – 05:40 – 220
05:40 – 05:50 – 260
05:50 – 06:00 – 380
06:00 – 06:10 – 200 (The pace is
slower for some reason)
06:10 – 06:20 – 280
06:20 – 06:30 – 300
06:30 – 06:45 – 360
06:45 – 07:00 – 250
As we can see, 221 people leave in the
first 15 minutes, 1455 people between 05:00 and 06:00, and 1390 people
between 06:00 and 07:00. All together for Monday, 3066 people leave
until 07:00, not including families of prisoners.
Throughout our stay there people keep
coming to us to tell how horrible the situation outside is – such
a chaotic muddle, crowdedness and pressure. People are shoving; some
are lying on the floor, climbing on each other. "It is like war,"
they keep saying. We have to find a way to ensure that people will enter
in their turn according to the time of their arrival. In this way some
of the inhuman pressure and shoving will be prevented.
Someone says he arrived at 02:30 and
left at 04:52, while someone else tells us he arrived at 02:30 and left
at 05:30. People shoved and pushed in and entered before him. Close
to 07:00 the check inside the facility takes one person 10 minutes and
20 minutes to another.