Eyal, Tue 19.5.09, Morning

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Meki S., Shapik (Guest), Merav A., (Reporting); Translation: Bracha B.A.
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

03:40-06:00 AM

The people who pass through this checkpoint are residents of the central region of the West Bank who have permits to work in Israel.  The checkpoint is not built to serve the huge number of people who have to cross, and as a result it has created conditions of pressure and overcrowding.  At a certain point the soldiers try and make order by shooting in the air.  

We arrived at the checkpoint shortly before it opened.  There are already hundreds of people sitting on the other side (The West Bank side) waiting for it to open.  A large group of women is lining up next to the turnstile to get through before the crowds of people begin to go through.

The checkpoint opens several minutes late and the large group of people is immediately let in to be checked.  When the checkpoint opens the hundreds of people line up in an orderly line that extends into Qalqilya.  The line is so long that we cannot see the end of it.  More and more transit taxis arrive with more people and the line grows even longer. 

From the other side we can see the delay caused by the checks.  The rate at which people leave is very slow.  People report that only three inspection booths are open, and that the check is infuriatingly slow and inefficient.  We call the Liaison and Coordination Administration to ask them to speed up the checks.

As time goes by the orderly line on the other side of the checkpoint begins to break up and there is pressure and overcrowding.  People are pushed into the turnstiles until they get stuck because of the pressure.  Groups of four or five people are stuck inside one portion of the turnstile and have difficulty getting out again.  

People begin coming out of the checkpoint slightly faster, but still horrifyingly slow.  They complain about the time it takes to be checked, that in order to catch their rides to work on time they need to leave home at one or two in the morning.  Some tell us that when the work day is longer they don't even bother to go home, but simply sleep at the checkpoint.

At about 5:00 the pressure at the entrance to the checkpoint is at its peak.  There are still hundreds of people waiting to go through.  Every ten minutes or so the soldiers at the inspection points operate the turnstiles and let another few dozen people in.  It is beginning to be late and people are afraid that their rides and their employers will not wait for them and that they will miss the entire workday.  People climb over the gate leading to the turnstile in hopes of getting into the crowd in front of the turnstile. 

Suddenly one of the soldiers comes out of the checkpoint with his rifle drawn and fires several shots in the air.  He stands in the entry and tries to push people back from the turnstile, but it is so crowded that people cannot move back. 

At the exit people tell us that every day people are injured from being crushed while waiting in line or from the turnstiles.  People have had their ribs broken, and others have passed out.  The overcrowding and pressure is caused by the fact that this checkpoint is supposed to enable thousands of people with work permits to get to their places of work, but all these thousands of people are forced to pass through a bottleneck of two turnstiles that are alternately opened and then locked again.  People complain that the checkpoint is not equipped to handle this huge amount of people that pass through it each day.  

At 6:00 the pressure begins to let up.  There are still dozens of people waiting to get through, but some understand that they will not get to work that day and return home.

A short time after we arrived at the checkpoint an army jeep arrived and parked next to us.  The soldiers tried to tell us that it was forbidden for us to be there, but quickly called the police. .A police van arrived from Kedumim.  The policemen tried to persuade us that we had no business being there, that we are disturbing the soldiers, that it was dangerous for us to be there and that we were forbidden to take pictures, and that we should simply go home.  We are not convinced, and tell them that the soldiers' complaint [that we are disturbing them] is false, and that we have no intention of leaving simply because the soldiers don't want us to be there.  The police remain at the checkpoint.  They feel that they cannot leave as long as "the problem" is not solved.  They want to leave, but after the soldier who fired in the air sees that I photographed him doing so he again calls the police, and they again try and make us leave the checkpoint.  At one point they threaten to take us to the police station in Kedumim to be investigated.  In the end, after sitting there for more than an hour, they give up and leave, but not before one of them shouts to Miki that we have no business being at the checkpoint, and that we have a lot of nerve complaining about that happens there.