Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
Dawn, good and bad.
The gates opened promptly at 3:45. The first workers got through the checkpoint in only three minutes! We asked one of them how long he had been waiting, and he said he arrived at 3:00.
3:51 By the separation barrier: The gates are closed, a man is sent back. By the time we left we saw six people sent back. We didn't manage to speak to any of them to ask what went wrong. Each time someone goes back, the gates are closed to incoming traffic until the person passes back into Palestinian territory.
Between 3:50 and 4:30, at several different moments, we picked people to watch for. A woman got through in four minutes, eight men got through in six to ten minutes. A man told us today was very good, he wished it could always be like this.
At 4:50 we picked three more men to watch for. We walked around to the exit, where we saw that the flow of people coming out was cut off--an unusual occurrence. Shortly people started coming out again, but in smaller numbers. One man we spotted got out after thirty-five minutes; the other two hadn't made it yet when we gave up after forty-five minutes. People paused to complain to us, shouting "Not good" and otherwise expressing anger.
We went again to see what was happening by the separation barrier. There was a line of people waiting, but not a lot of pressure. The problem seemed to be inside the checkpoint. We don't know what happened there today, and the people who use it can't tell us what caused today's jam.