The olive harvest season is over, opening days and hours at the checkpoint have changed – but apparently not everyone knows this, nor do we, and therefore we only got there at 15:30.
The checkpoint was open, ten workers get through, the soldiers have already closed the lower gate down the hill and although another two workers got there because they believed the checkpoint is open until 16:30 – they would not let them through. The soldiers simply ignored our presence, closed the upper gate and left.
In the meantime more workers got there, not knowing that opening times have changed. Two of them, who are permitted through Barta’a checkpoint as well went back there with their vehicle, and the rest, who only have a permit for Aneen checkpoint and have no car, remained sitting by the checkpoint. We called the DCO and the answer we got is that “they know opening times have changed.” They should go to Toura Checkpoint. How would they get to Toura? And who says they’ll be allowed through there? That’s their problem… !
Two vehicles sped by on the security toad – no one stopped to find out what was going on. Another army vehicle, identifying itself as a patrol – soldiers stopped next to us, saw the Palestinians waiting and wanted to know what was going on, promised to look into it… We called the DCO again, and the woman-soldier - who answered and went to check with the higher echelons – had no solution and hung up.
The Israeli authorities name-check every single worker who exited the Territories in the morning to make sure he returned the same day, and whoever is not marked as having returned, is prevented from crossing the checkpoint again. But if not all of them are allowed back in?? Apparently there’s no security problem leaving Palestinians in Israeli territory all night, so why even give them permits??
In the meantime another two Palestinians arrived who also claimed no one told them the checkpoint would close at 15:30. The number of Palestinians prevented from returning to their village now reached 10.
At 16:15 we called again, and this time we explained to the woman-soldier at the DCO, very angrily, how absurd this situation was and after a long to-and-fro got back to us and promised to send someone “shortly” and enable the workers to get back home. The patrol passed there once again and yet again blamed the Palestinians for knowing the change in opening hours and being late on purpose… After we explained to them yet again that it is impossible to leave the Palestinians in “Israel” they again promised to take care of it. Another vehicle passed and promised…
We decided to leave. We took phone numbers and promised to follow up. Finally, at 17:20 soldiers came and opened the checkpoint.
According to the workers, the information passes from the Israeli DCO to the Palestinian DCO, who passes it on to the Palestinian local village councils, but from there the information does not reach all the villagers.
There’s a yellow board hanging on the checkpoint gate, for notices – an ideal place for information about the checkpoint opening hours. But the board has been bare for years…