Chana Stein (translating), Ronit Dahan-Ramati (reporting)


5.20. Walking across to the Palestinian side, we saw very short queues and all 5 checking stations open. But very soon many more people arrived and the lines lengthened. A policeman arrived, joining the soldier in the cubicle who was operating the turnstiles. Soon after, the policeman apparently got a call on his phone, tells the soldier “I’ll be back soon” and goes off at a run. We were afraid that some incident had occurred, especially as soon afterwards we heard the sound of shots from afar, but nothing seemed to affect the checkpoint. The usua morning routine continued. We went outside and saw that motor traffic was passing as usual.  During the course of our watch we heard shots in the distance, but this did not affect the checkpoint itself.

Because of the fast, the tea kiosk was closed, but next to it were counters ready for selling clothing and shoes later in the day. People are not smoking and the place is a bit cleaner than usual. As they do not take lunch, many people are without bags.

Suddenly at 5.40, checkpoint no.5 is closed and opens only about 25 minutes later.  The policeman does not return, but two security guards arrive.  The DCO officer arrived at 6.05, but did not open the humanitarian gate and sent people to join the regular queue. But at 6.20 she did open the gate.

By this time the queues were reaching into the parking lot, but progress was reasonably quick and remained orderly. Shortly afterwards the policewoman arrived. At 6.35, the DCO officer declared that the humanitarian gate would no longer open, and sent everyone to the regular queue, though she herself remained. The policewoman left at 6.40.

At 6.45 a woman arrived with two children.  The daughter was bald and it was clear that they were heading for medical treatment.  The DCO officer approached to open the gate for them.  Immediately lots of women and other ‘humanitarian’ cases rushed towards the gate. The regular lines shortened dramatically. The soldier allowed in the woman and children, but sent all the others back.  This caused a lot of anger and confusion, but things quickly calmed down.  Meanwhile, the woman and children, who did not know the procedure, after passing through the humanitarian gate, instead of going towards the checking station, entered an area limited to ‘our forces’, whose gate had remained open.  A guard went to them and politely accompanied them to the correct place.  Subsequently, the humanitarian gate was opened occasionally.  Obviously there is no clear policy about when to open it. At 6.55 the DCO officer left.  After a few minutes she returned, but did not open the gate again.

At 7.00 we joined the queue.  While waiting we noticed that a DCO officer and a soldier arrived.  At one point there were 4 security guards and 4 soldiers.  But soon the DCO officer and soldier left, as well as some of the guards.  It took 25 minutes for us to pass.