Eyal Crossing, Sun 6.9.09, Morning

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Edna K., Hagar L. (reporting) Translator: Charles K.

A catastrophe and shameful – these are the appropriate words to describe what took place on dawn Sunday at the Eyal crossing. 

  1. Between 04:00-05:00, all those leaving were inspected in the rooms and apparently were kept in them for a long time because only a sparse trickle of people came through.  We estimate that by 05:10 only about 500 of the more than 3,000 laborers going through on Sunday had exited.  A huge line formed, and the stewards on the Palestinian side weren’t able to control it.  We couldn’t see what went on, but heard chilling descriptions.

 The laborers can eat their last meal before the evening at 04:45, the hour for prayer and the start of the fast.  What happens when people are stuck for a long time in the checkpoint, and when the hour when they’re still allowed to eat passes with them still inside?  The way the security company operating the checkpoint behaves indicates that it doesn't care about or understand the problem – in fact, the opposite seems true:  delays of a kind I haven’t observed before at this checkpoint.  A man exiting the inspections reports that the guards require people to discard food before entering the checkpoint, and it piles up outside.

  1. Delays:  Inspections stop and the checkpoint doors are locked three or four times between 05:30 -06:24, for 5-14 minutes each time.

We arrive at 04:20.  There are dozens of vans in the parking lot, but only a few laborers.  They’re eating their final meal until evening. 

04:34  We call DCO Qalqilya.  Ephraim, the DCO man on duty, answers, and promises to call the crossings unit and the army unit.  No change regarding people going through.  04:47  We call the humanitarian office; call them again.

05:05  Immediately afterwards, and for about 5 minutes, people flow through.  It stops again, another call to the humanitarian office, again a flow of people.  That’s how it goes for an hour:  People flow through for a few minutes, and then for 10-15 minutes, or even longer, those who’re finished in the rooms don’t come out. 

05:30  The exit doors and the turnstiles lock electrically without warning, as people are going through; a man in the turnstile hits his forehead.  Inspections stop.  Five minutes later the PA announces, “Resume the routine,” and the turnstile begins operating again.  People leaving explain that one of the people asked to enter the room slipped into the line and they’re looking for him.   

06:07  Another call to the humanitarian office, the fourth attempt to explain how serious is the situation on the other side of the checkpoint, given that no more than 1,000 people have gone through by 06:00, and apparently over 2,000 more are still waiting there.  Those coming through report that the line stretches all the way to the greenhouses, the people lined up three abreast. 

A man coming through the checkpoint stops to talk with us and complain about how they’re treated and about the delays.  Some security supervisor comes over to him, asks for his ID card and says that if he has a complaint he’ll gladly record it and that he shouldn’t talk to us.  The man, relatively elderly, isn’t alarmed, and complains in detail as the supervisor moves him away from us.  We hope nothing happens to him. 

06:10-06:24  The line stops completely for the first five minutes, then they start inspecting a little again but people aren’t permitted to exit.  People watched their rides leave the parking lot while they, their inspection completed, aren’t allowed to leave for their jobs.  Again they’re looking for someone the security staff thinks slipped by one of the inspection stations. 

06:40  From where we stood we see that at 06:45 the line to enter the checkpoint still stretched around the corner – in other words, for at least the final 60-70 meters of the path to the checkpoint the line was three abreast. We don’t know how many of them gave up getting to work because they knew they wouldn’t have a ride or because their employer wouldn’t wait any longer for them. 

A request by people coming through the checkpoint:  That Israel should also erect, before the rains begin, a large shed for people waiting, with benches, like the Palestinian Authority erected on its side.  I seem to remember reading that Machsom Watch tried to help in the matter.