Bethlehem (300)

Guest volunteers of MachsomWatch

Checkpoint 300 (Palestinian side),

4:00-6:00 a.m.

At arrival at 4:00 am, the checkpoint is already completely packed. Men are climbing on the steel bars and the line has reached the parking lot. We hear the humanitarian line is closed and that the soldiers present are ignoring the pleas of a few women who are trying to pass. We walk to the exit line – which has been functioning as the humanitarian line for a few years – and see a large group waiting. We call out to the soldier and private security guard to open the door for the women waiting there, but we are ignored. One of the women tries to get their attention by banging her keys against the steel door. As a response, the private security guard walks up to the steel door and angrily points his finger, threatening her and us. When we again ask him to talk to us, to open the door, he turns around and walks away. He did not say one word. After calling the humanitarian hotline several times, we are told that the humanitarian line will open at 5:30 and that there is nothing that can be done.

The chaotic atmosphere creates a lot of panic and desperation. People are looking at us to help them, but we explain that we have been trying everything we know and we cannot do anything else. At 5:30, an officer indeed arrives and lets the women pass. After that, he alternately opens the door of the humanitarian line (not the turnstile but the door located next to it) or the door of the main line (again, not the turnstile but the door located next to the turnstile). While this means that a large group of people can rush through quickly, it also means the line is not moving for about 15-20 minutes before the door is opened again. This causes a lot of pressure on line, with people waiting being pushed against the steel bars and walls.

When we leave at 6:30, the humanitarian line is functioning as required, with women and the elderly being let through. There is still a long line of men waiting in the main line. Due to the crowds, we were unable to get inside the main building and could only observe the workings of the checkpoint on the Bethlehem side. The waiting time was also difficult to assess, but it must have been at least an hour to get inside the main building, where, of course, more lines awaited the Palestinians.