Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 23.12.07, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
On our way in both directions, Za'tara/Tapuach junction Checkpoint rather empty.
Burin/Yitzhar Huwwara Junction CP unmanned.
Huwwara CP 15:30
CP commander - Lieutenant B. DCO representative - T.
We noted a strategic innovation upon our arrival - the plexiglass window of the concrete cubicle where detainees are not held through which we could note whether anyone is held inside is now covered with a wooden plate blocking the inside from view.
Sophisticated, these Golani boys. (name of the infantry brigade presently manning the checkpoint).
We did see a young man being led into the hold though, upon our arrival.
16:00 To our inquiry about the detainee, the commander said he intended to shackle him for the GSS is about to come questioning him.
16:15 Soldiers catch three boys in the field near the CP (they are probably from the Askar refugee camp in Nablus), with a donkey-born small cart filled with iron scraps. "Leakers" (the nickname soldiers give to people who take the risk and bypass the checkpoint in order to avoid ID and personal inspection). We just managed to see the encounter from the taxi park to which we were alerted by some drivers. The boys were not beaten. At least not while we were observing the proceedings. We took photos. Later we heard the rest of the story from both cal cab drivers and from the CP commander: the three boys were first caught hours earlier bypassing the checkpoint through the fields, and were detained for three hours - "by the book".
After their release they simply repeated the act, were caught once again and detained for another three hours' punishment. Our attempts to intercede in their behalf were in vain, including calls to the army hotline.
As fate would have its little joke, because the detention cubicle is so small, the shackled detainee presumably waiting for his GSS interrogators was simply released.
A cab driver asked us, dead serious: "Isn't a pity, this poor donkey? Hasn't eaten or drunk anything since morning! Can't you talk to the soldiers?"
16:40 Beit Furik Checkpoint
DCO representative A. approaches us, asks if everything is alright, informs us that he's still around for a while and is at our service anytime. Just then a shackled boy is being released, having been detained for "leaking". The patrol that caught him out in the field shackled him so tightly that quite a while was needed in order to cut open his plastic handcuff.
A man carries in his arms a little boy, perhaps 5-years old, very thin, his head bandaged. Just out of hospital. The man must walk with him in the freezing cold the whole 200 yards from the Checkpoint to the taxi park across the junction. Another man accompanies them, holding the hospital paperwork.
17:15 Back at Huwwara Checkpoint
Hot news item! People at the scene rush to tell us that a Military Policewoman (the girl soldiers manning the checking posts) broke into a hysterical fit - screaming and laughing even more loudly than usual. She seems to have had a full-blown tantrum, the soldiers took away her weapon and moved her over to the vehicle checking cubicle, apparently to calm her down. Thereby one of the three pedestrian checking posts was closed down and all the people still lined up for it had to go to the end of the other two waiting lines to begin their ordeal anew.
Meanwhile the power was cut and all checks were stopped. In hindsight, the CP commander claimed that the three boys, still detained, played with the electricity cables.
We see a boy arriving for inspection from the waiting line, getting special treatment from the "securing" soldier: he has to lean spread-eagle against the checking post wall while the soldier lightly kicks his calves and thighs to open more widely, and repeatedly body-checks/pats with hands again and again. We did not witness what brought this on. Based on our habitual observation, the boy most likely said something to the girl soldier, or to the soldier securing her, or gave a cheeky look, or laughed, or who knows what.
The detained boys, to overcome their boredom, or the cold, or just to cheer themselves up, began a animal-sounds concert. The soldiers alternately cracked up laughing (these children are prodigies!), joined in the fun, and yelled at them to shut up. As the show only got livelier and livelier, one of the soldiers approached the cell.
We couldn't see what went on but silence returned. At least at that corner of the compound...
We left at 18:15, not before the CP commander (who said in parting: You do important work!) said that when he releases the boys, he will not forget to let them pick up their donkey and cart still waiting at the entrance to the CP compound.
Note that during most of our vigil, this commander took charge and tempered some especially callous soldiers.