'Atarot, Hizma, Qalandiya, Mon 18.1.10, Afternoon

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Natanya G. and Phyllis W. (reporting)

15:20:  Atarot:  The line of cars was very small.

15:30:  Qalandiya: From the northern parking lot we watched the new "improved" traffic barrier (that was built in conjunction with the new passageway installation) in action at the entrance to the CP.  We saw that its components include a traffic light, a barrier arm that can be swung up and 4 or 5 large aluminum cylinders that emerge from (or sink back into) the roadway to block the entrance.  The female soldier in the booth controlling the barrier (which has been moved to an area between the traffic lanes and surrounded by a fence), turned on the green light, raised the barrier arm and lowered the aluminum cylinders and a wave of vehicles rushed forward.  The soldier, who couldn't control the flow, resorted to shouting into the PA system and finally halted the flow with vehicles standing on the cylinders and below the raised arm, neutralizing the system so that she couldn't operate it.  The scene was pretty ridiculous.

15:35:  Inside the pedestrian CP, two of the three cages in the northern shed and three internal passageways were full of people waiting.  It was our impression that the lines were making only very slow progress.  The weather was stormy and cold and some of our telephone numbers were not operating.  The soldier who answered our phone call to the Humanitarian hotline told us that they were not going to respond to requests for help for the next three days.  The headquarters phone was working only intermittently. 

When we entered the CP we saw a couple waiting in Passageway 5, the entrance to the DCO offices.  The man held a blue ID and his wife a Palestinian one.  They said that they had been in the DCO to receive a permit for the woman.  They had been given a promise that it would be issued and told to wait outside.  They said that they had been at Qalandiya since 1 PM.  As the DCO didn't answer the phone, we called headquarters and asked to be connected to the DCO representative.  The DCO rep told the couple that the permit was being prepared and that they were to wait in the northern shed.

We got on line in passageway 4.  To pass the time we phoned the DCO once again at 4:05 PM.  This time a soldier answer the phone and we told her about the couple who were waiting.  The soldier asked for and received the woman's ID number, checked and returned to say that the permit (for one week only) had been issued and transferred to the Palestinian DCO office in A-Ram, so that the couple had to go to A-Ram to receive it.  But the A-Ram DCO was already closed at this time, and the weather was rapidly deteriorating.  If we hadn't "accidentally" reached the DCO, the couple might still be waiting there in vain.  We ran to give them the message.

Then we returned and got on line once again in the northern shed at 4:15 PM.  After waiting in the shed and then in the internal passageway, we finally emerged on the Jerusalem side of the CP at 4:50 PM after a wait of 35 minutes.  Our initial impression was confirmed - the passageways were operating very slowly.

16:50:  When we got to the Jerusalem side we saw a truck parked in the bus station area.  The driver told us that the soldiers were not letting him through because he had a pile of empty cartons in the truck.  We phoned headquarters and they took details of the truck and promised to help.  We wished the driver good luck and fled back inside the CP to get out of the rain.

17:15:  We left Qalandiya to return to Jerusalem.  When we drove past Lil/Jabba, we saw the soldier on duty aiming his weapon off into the darkness in a threatening manner.  There were no vehicles at the CP and no pedestrians.  What was he doing, playing?  That's how tragedies occur. 

There were no lines at Hizmeh either.