'Anabta, Eyal, Qalqiliya, Sun 31.5.09, Afternoon
An incident in Qalqiliya (population 60,000) during the night was on everybody's mind today, and everybody talked about it. Surprisingly, most of what we heard, from Israelis as well as Palestinians, seemed to be similar. There was a gunfight between Palestinian police and Hamas members during which seven people were killed, and there was a resulting curfew which affected coming and goings at Eyal and made the early morning soldiers on duty at Qalqiliya extremely nervous (and, we inferred, ill behaved). During our shift, we heard a soldier at Qalqiliya checkpoint tell us that "we don't know what will happen now," and a Palestinian at Deir Sharaf, tell us that, yes, the same could well happen in Tulkarm or Nablus. Life goes on....
12:00 Gate 1392-3 Habla
A truck full of herbs is closely inspected as it makes its way across the security barrier.
There are six soldiers at the checkpoint today, one stands for a while on concrete blocks above the checkpoint, aiming his gun in desultory fashion: but these are reservists, as also at Anabta, and their heart is not in the job. The one who wondered if we knew what had happened during the night in Qalqiliya sported a "Nepal" cap on his head above his uniform!
There is little or no traffic either in or out of the city today. One car, with Israeli license plates (yellow) comes out, is not checked, and the only car that is checked on going in, is a car bearing two young men with cameras who have spent at least ten minutes near the checkpoint, and in full view of it, twisting towels around their heads ( makeshift kaffiehs)! We ask them if they are journalists going into the city, with their photographic paraphernalia, to find out what is going on. "We don't know anything, and we don't have time to talk." Fine, but when we leave fifteen minutes later, they are still being delayed at the checkpoint.
We hear about one of the taxi drivers being hit by a soldier (but that was last week, and we weren't eye witnesses to that). The usual Bedouin boys tell us of the "balagan" (mess) that was at the checkpoint early in the morning, but two of the taxi drivers (fluent Hebrew) profess to know nothing about any of it.
13:30 -- just as we leave a TV truck, with Israeli license plates (yellow) makes its way out of the city. "Al Arabiya TV," we're told.
Along route 55:
Note 1: the new signs, in Hebrew, outside the colonies of Qarnei Shomron, on the road leading across country, south to Ariel, and at Qedumim, remain as pristine as when they were first spotted a couple of weeks ago: "Seminar on the Story of every Jew in Judea and Samaria." Other road signs, particularly those pointing to Nablus, are defaced and can no longer be called road signs.
A new sight greets us: the checkpoint has been moved nearer to the junction with the apartheid road leading west, over the hills, to Jubara. Is work at the distant growing checkpoint at a standstill? We can't make it out, other than two brand new checking booths which now stand in the middle of the widened roadway.
Present at the checkpoint one lone soldier, a blue police truck and a lone policeman who seems to take upon himself the checking of as many vehicles and owners' papers, particularly those with Israeli (yellow) license plates, that he can stop.
The usual coffee man tells that the new checkpoint came about earlier today and raises his eyes to heaven, as if to say, "What next?" A soldier from an army jeep checks a Palestinian flatbed truck parked on the side of the road (where the taxis once stood).
A huge flatbed (Israeli license plates) now arrives from the direction of the lookout tower (the former checkpoint stop), a man descends, complete with remote control device and we watch, in amazement, as not one but two, then a third, huge concrete boulder is carefully lifted from the flatbed and placed gingerly on the road surface beneath. This exercise takes a while as it appears that there cannot be a centimeter of space between the concrete boulders that now divide the narrow roadway into two.
15:00 -- more cars with Israeli license plates make their way to Tulkarm, most are not stopped. A major joins us as we watch, and cheerfully tells us that this checkpoint is merely "temporary" for the next week and a half. Then, "there'll be a new checkpoint," but he has no idea what it will do, nor does he appear to care (another reservist): "in two weeks, I'm off!"
There are few returning workers, but there is a steady stream of people, and it takes no time to go through the turnstile and past the checking booths to the path leading home.
15:45 -- a parade of three tractors, with a Hummer bringing up the rear, make their way on the dirt pathway. One has the necessary "tools" to clear the tracker path by the security barrier.
We make our way towards the "Liaison Office," closed now, and start a conversation with S., a high ranking policeman on his way home, who is willing to talk, and tells of his efforts to help Palestinians seeking permits and of today's Palestinian imposed curfew in Qalqiliya, meaning there were many fewer workers crossing into Israel today.