Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
Dawn. Quiet and routine.
The gates opened on time at 3:45 and a steady flow of people started coming out of the checkpoint five minutes later. Until 5:15 the flow didn't stop, though individual lines closed periodically. Until 5:00 there was no real pressure. We watched for a number of people at different times; four got through the checkpoint in 8-10 minutes, and one took 17 minutes. We don't know what delayed him.
By the separation barrier we met a new representative of the EAPPI. The previous group has gone back to their own countries.
We saw several people returning to Palestinian territory while others were still crossing into Israel. The EAPPI volunteer reported that in one half hour she saw 23 people go back. Most of them said that the machine rejected their documents, and no one was available to answer questions.
From 5:17 to 5:21 the entry turnstiles shut down completely, and after that they opened and shut at short intervals. We saw people climbing over the barricades to get into whichever line was moving. Some of them evidently used the humanitarian line, closed at this time of day, to position themselves near the head of the line. We saw one man climb over the wall from outside the waiting area directly into the open area beyond the turnstiles. All this indicates pressure at the entrance to the waiting area.
The separate route back into Palestinian territory is still under construction. Three men stood outside the exit trying to go back. They said one of them has a son who felt ill while they were inside the checkpoint, and they wanted to know how he was. The guards wouldn't open the side gate for them, saying they should wait until later, when the pressure would ease. Having a separate way back might help worried families in cases like this.
5:45 We left.