Abu Dis, Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Sheikh Saed, Tue 7.4.09, Morning
[A few hours after the closure came into effect -- from midnight until midnight of 18.4.09!]
6:50 On the way to Sheikh Sa'ed
In the border-police camp at the entrance to Jabel Mukhaber we saw a crowd of border policemen, additional security forces, and some tractors. We stopped to inquire and were told that a terrorist's house was about to be demolished in Jabel Mukhaber or Tzur Baher. We called Meir Margalit of the Committee Against House Dmolitions to inform him. Later in the day we heard of a demolition in Tsur Baher during which a Palestinian was killed. According to the army, he had tried to run them over while the demolition was in progress.
7:00 Sheikh Sa'ed
Sparse traffic flowing. Because of the sparseness manual recording did not create lines in front of the checkpoint.
7:30 Zeitim Crossing
A difficult day at the checkpoint.
We crossed to the Palestinian side and saw two Palestinians who approached Pinny, one of the checkpoint commanders, looking frustrated. We went up to them and learned the following: At 6:30 that morning they had tried to cross the fence to the Israeli side close to Anata and were caught together with some other Palestinians. ID's were confiscated, and the group walked along the fence on the Palestinian side with two border-police jeeps following them as far as the Zeitim Crossing. There registrations were made and the ID's returned. The police said there were 15 persons and 15 ID's were returned, but the two Palestinians claimed there had been 16 persons and only 15 ID's returned. The missing ID belonged to one of them and they were tryig to find out what had happened to it. We turned up at this stage of the proceedings, when Pinny was trying to shake them off and send them to As-Za'ayyem. The two we met were Mohammad, whose card was missing (and who was trying for the first time to cross into Israel in search of work), and Ra'ed, who had decided to help him. Ra'ed was fluent and most impressive; 25, married, a father of 2 with a 3rd on the way, from the Jenin area. He painted a picture of harsh reality in which he has no choice but to enter Israel as an illegal resident via Jerusalem in order to work in Um-El-Fahem (which is roughly a 10 minute drive from his village). After a short round of phone calls, the border police and the checkpoint police arrived and interrogated Mohammad and Ra'ed more seriously in our presence, took down the details (which Ra'ed remembered) of one of the jeeps, and tried to track down the missing ID. After a few minutes they reported that the ID had not been found in either of the jeeps, and suggested that Mohammad go to the Abu Dis DCO and from there to the Palestinian Ministry of the Interior in order to get a new ID. We tried to understand how Mohammad was supposed, from Jenin itself, to return to his home and pass all the checkpoints on the way. One of the checkpoint representatives said he would enter a note into the computer saying he had lost the ID. In spite of the seemingly serious effort to deal with the loss, after failing to the find the ID it became apparent that they were no longer interested in taking responsibility or helping Mohammad solve his problem. (They thought the card might be stuck to one of those returned, although Ra'ed, who had been the one to hand back the ID's one by one, did not think this was likely.)
In addition to this event, there were two more, related to the appalling behaviour of the female soldiers at the checkpoint.
An elderly man, a Christian from Bethlehem, tried to cross and was told that his biometric was not working. The female soldiers were rude, they screamed at him to go to Jericho and acquire a new biometric. The man was confused and helpless, and when he tried to enter the DCO corridor, the soldier refused to open the turnstile and screamed at him to go to Jericho. After our intervention, which included Yossi, the checkpoint commander, and another long delay, the man was allowed to cross on the understanding that he would go to Jericho to take care of the matter.
THIS IS THE PLACE TO POINT OUT THAT THERE IS NO DEVICE TO GENERATE BIOMETRICS AT THE CHECK-POINT. THE COMMANDER, YOSSI, SAID THAT THE PREVIOUS DEVICE HAD BROKEN DOWN AND THAT HE HAD RAISED THE MATTER WITH THE CIVIL ADMINISTRATION.
The other case was of another Christian gentleman who had a permit to cross for Easter and the female soldier shrilly refused to listen to him or let him through, despite the fact that closure regulations permit this. After expressing his despair and frustration to us, the man turned to the DCO, and Yossi claims that he crossed, although we did not witness this.
All this while there was a "game" going on about which of two turnstiles would be open. People would line up at one without knowing whether it would be open or closed, then had to move to the other when an announcement was made, and vice-versa.
We spoke to the checkpoint commander about all these matters. He said he was aware of the inappropriate behaviour, specifically of one of the female soldiers, and that he would attend to this.