We arrived at Eyal checkpoint at 4:15AM. According to the internationals who were on the Palestinian side, the checkpoint opened on time at 4:00AM and already at that time the line reached Qalqilyia. This means there were already hundreds on line.
We could see people waiting on line from the turnstile ad infinitum but we couldn't really get a count or see where the line ended because it was still dark. The line was orderly. About 13 people a minute were leaving the terminal after being checked.
At 4:25AM the turnstile which allows the Palestinians to enter into the terminal locked. The turnstile opens and locks on and off according to how many people are allowed to enter the terminal. It is very inconsistent. It can be locked for 10 minutes or for a few seconds. It can stay open for a minute or a few minutes. Today when it locked and stayed closed for a few minutes, the orderly line broke out into to chaos and everyone ran toward the turnstile in one huge crowd. A jeep had been in the area and watched the uncontrolled crowd but they soon drove off. A soldier from the terminal spoke with a load speaker telling people to move away from the turnstile but it didn't help.
People were all crushed together pushing each other; trying to hold their packages over their head or passing them over to friends on the other side or throwing them over the side to pick up after they passed through the turnstile. They were shouting and complaining and telling each other "wachd, wachd" (one at a time).
When so many people are pressing forward on the turnstile the turnstile becomes stuck even when it is not locked. Those who were able to trickle through tried to help by pushing back on the turnstile from the other side. A few people managed to squeeze in through the wall and the turnstile where there is a very narrow space. The soldier with the loud speaker from the terminal called out to those squeezing through and told them to stop.
There were those Palestinians who didn't want to push their way through and they waited around on the sides hoping for the crowd to slowly disperse. We spoke to one man later who told us he got to the CP at 3:30AM but didn't get out until 7:20AM because he wasn't capable of pushing through.
At 4:49AM the jeep came back and parked near the turnstile. We saw a vehicle with yellow blinking lights on the Palestinian side. We called the Internationals and they told us it was an ambulance. A couple of people were injured.
At 4:55AM a soldier from the jeep saw some one trying to squeeze through the space between the turnstile and wall and ran out to stop him. The internationals asked us if we could ask the army to open another turnstile for the women who want to pass through but can't because of the bottle neck. We couldn't do anything but they eventually get through to someone who did open another turnstile.
At 5:25AM soldiers from the jeep came over to us and told us we shouldn't be there . They wanted us to stand behind these huge cement structures. If we stood there we would not have been able to see the turnstile on the other side. They told us it was a military zone. We moved slightly back.
At 5:35AM the soldiers came back and put up a sign which said "Danger – Military Zone. Anyone who passes through is endangering their lives." They insisted we stand behind that sign. We moved over and found another place to stand in the grasses that allowed us to see the turnstile from a far.
We saw about 20 people sitting behind the gate on the Israeli side. There was some thing wrong with the matching of their fingerprints and they had to wait until 8:30AM for the DCO to open. This mismatching often happens to people who work with their hands. The constant rubbing of the fingers on hard surfaces changes the print and then it no longer looks like the picture taken a few weeks before.
In the terminal four stations were in operation to examine the Palestinians' documents. An average of only 12 people a minute were checked and left the terminal on the Israeli side (as many as 20 and as few as 3 per minute).
About 3,500 people must pass through in the morning to get to work. It is outrageous to expect only 4 stations to service such a mass of people. This is especially ludicrous when you see what a pressure the people are under. People who come from villages further north must get up at 2AM in order to get to work on time. They must pass through other checkpoints before even getting to the CP at the boarder to Israel. And here at this boarder they are met with an endless line of people all equally under the same pressure to get to work and must fight each other for a place on line. It is as if we set the stage for this to happen. This kind of treatment of people who have passed through all the security tests and have received permits is unacceptable. It results in chaos. As so many Palestinians who pass by us say, "This is not living!"