Virginia Syvan, Ina Friedman (reporting)

A morning of deepening despair

Only four checking stations were open when we arrived at 5:25 a.m. and all were working agonizingly slowly, at that. Whereas the lines were confined to inside the shed when we entered, they built up steadily before our eyes, especially as the turnstile of one of the three cages was not opening so that cage was empty. At 5:40 checking station # 3 closed and #5 opened, but that still left the checkpoint  one station short.

At 6:00 the lines reached halfway through the parking lot, and ten minutes later the line discipline broke altogether and the standard melee ensued. The reason, it seems, was that the formerly closed turnstile at the end of cage #1 began to operate, people rushed to enter that formerly empty cage, and that seemed to serve as a signal for everyone to rush forward. Essentially, a misunderstanding that took the better part of half an hour to correct. 

But the correction did not last long, either, for at 7:08 the line discipline broke for the second time – this out of sheer frustration with queue-jumpers . For two of the three lines, the situation righted itself within about 10 minutes. Still, this is the first time in our memory that the line discipline broke twice in one morning, which (in addition to the slow progress forward all morning) was a reason for the deepening despair expressed those who approached us on the issue.

At 6:25 a Civil Administration soldier arrived and opened the Humanitarian Gate, where some 15 people were waiting, and he continued to operate the gate properly for as long as we could see him. At 7:30 we lost eye contact with him, so we cannot say for how long he kept the gate open. However, when we were again able to see the area by the Humanitarian Gate, at 8:10, he was gone.

At 7:30 we joined one of the lines going through the cages and it took us 50 minutes (!) to exit the checkpoint. Forty of them were spent approaching and inside one of the cages. When we finally left the cage, checking station #3 closed again, causing a further backup in all the lines of people waiting to transit the checkpoint – and this was already after 8:00 a.m.