Habla Checkpoint (1393), Sal'it
We arrived at Sal’it checkpoint a few minutes before 16:00. The double gates are closed and we saw no one on site. No one answered the phone at the DCL situation room.
We call A. from Kafr Sur. He reassures us that everyone will arrive at the checkpoint after they undergo inspection at the upper, internal checkpoint.
He tells us he can no longer access his lands. The gate he’d used has been closed and will not reopen. He has a crossing permit for the old gate, and the soldiers at the new gate don’t honor it. He went to the Palestinian liaison office a number of times to obtain a permit to reach his lands via the new gate. They told him the matter is under consideration by the DCL.
A few days ago, having no choice, he drove to his lands on a tractor via the Taybe checkpoint. The round trip took three hours. In other words, he can drive freely in Israel but passage to his lands via the shortest route is closed to him.
16:20 The military vehicle arrives, followed by tractors pulling wagons filled with workers. Two soldiers open the gate for the nine tractors which went through in under ten minutes, after which the gates are again locked.
It turns out they’re the same soldiers in charge of the Far’oun checkpoint (708). When we asked them why there are so many problems and delays opening that checkpoint in the morning, sometimes longer than one hour, the soldiers explained that they’re the only ones responsible for the entire area, that Palestinians keep going through the fence in different places and they have to find and catch them, which is why they arrive late at the checkpoint. They were also responsible for dealing with the fire that broke out in the area a few days ago…
After visiting Z. briefly in ‘Azzun, we continued to the Habla checkpoint.
The checkpoint is already open, A. managing the crossing of vehicles and people on foot in all directions. The four female soldiers who occasionally check documents or vehicles are smiling and pleasant, everything’s calm.
According to A., merchandise will continue to leave the West Bank only through checkpoint 109. He seems to have accepted the situation, unlike others who don’t stop complaining about the many hours they waste at the checkpoint while all the goods are unloaded with forklifts in the designated area, and wait for a long time until the dog handler arrives with the dog to sniff each item. Every evening A. prepares a list of the vehicles that will cross the following day and a description of their contents. He schedules three trucks each hour from 09:00 to 16:00. On Friday and holiday eves the schedule begins at 08:00. The owner of the produce shop told us later that the owners of the plant nurseries allow him to always be in the first group to cross.
When we asked why all the trucks turn left to Habla, in violation of the traffic arrangements, A. said there’s a plan that’s been agreed on to widen Highway 55 to four lanes and build a road underneath to the other side (all that on Palestinian land, of course). The two checkpoints – Habla and 109 – will continue operating as they do now.
The checkpoint closed exactly on time.