Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir, Tue 13.9.11, Afternoon

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Tal H., Dafna B. (reporting), Lee L. (guest)
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

Translator:  Charles K.

Summary:  As September 20 approaches, the Jordan Valley prepares for war!!!  Thousands of soldiers, tanks, firing positions.  Primarily near the checkpoints.  Does Israel intend to fire from tanks on the people it thinks will try to come through the checkpoints?  What, exactly, is Israel planning?  And that’s in addition to false arrests, not opening the Gochia checkpoint and destroying wells in Area A.

13:30  Shomron gate

A bus carrying some 30 Palestinians, apparently people who stayed illegally in Israel and were caught, and are now being released back to the West Bank.  Since this is an apartheid road, there’s no Palestinian traffic on it so they can’t hitch a ride.  They begin walking east about 7 kilometers on the side of the highway, to the nearest locality, in danger from the speeding traffic, during the hottest hours of the Palestinian summer.  Their only sin is their desire to support their families.  Further down the road we saw two more Palestinians trudging along, apparently from an earlier batch.

14:15  Ma’aleh Efraim

Manned, after a long period during which it was unmanned.  The internationals told us that two days ago it was also manned.  Cars in both directions are carefully inspected – documents and contents.

14:30  Hamra checkpoint

No cars at all, so we didn’t stop.  On our way back (at 17:30) there were no cars coming from the Jordan Valley but there were cars from the west which were carefully inspected as they went through.  The internationals said (and confirmed what they said by showing us photographs) that the army established a number of sandbagged firing positions on the hill above the checkpoint, facing the West Bank.  Probably to confront the army of the elderly and children that will march to the checkpoint.  Or not.  Palestinians tell me that they’re not making any preparations or organizing to do so.  My fear is that even if there are no demonstrations, the very fact of preparations for war will tempt the army to use the force it possesses, and we’re talking about innocent civilians.

Gochia checkpoint

We observed from a distance but saw no Palestinians going through.  But we couldn’t see whether or not the army jeep arrived.  Recently we’ve received reports that the checkpoint hasn’t opened at all.  Maybe that’s why the Palestinians have given up and stopped coming.  Many soldiers and a tank next to the checkpoint.  Preparations for September 20?  Isn’t placing a tank where civilians and children cross a provocation?  Do they intend to use tanks?  Against whom?

More, from the following day – 14.9.11

A Palestinian told me that the tank stands next to the Gochia checkpoint, which was open all day.  He thinks they even dismantled the gate.  The rumor spread and Palestinians crossed freely but apprehensively to the West Bank.  I assume that the intent is to erect a more massive checkpoint to replace the metal barrier.  But the truth is that the size of the gate isn’t important, since the gate stands in the middle of nowhere, and even if they erect a gate that matches the prison in which inhabitants of the Jordan Valley have been trapped, how hard could it be to go around it?

We visited the Salamin family next to the settlement of Beqa’ot, whose sons were arrested a number of times last week (details at the end).  While we were there, a Beqa’ot security jeep showed up (driven by a Druze security man), drove around the encampment threateningly, and left, leaving us in the midst of a cloud of dust.

At 15:55, as we were leaving after our visit, the Beqa’ot jeep came toward us near to the settlement’s vineyards.  The security person signaled us to stop, asked who we are and what we were doing, but although we identified ourselves, he refused to identify himself and told us that it’s a closed military area and we’re not allowed to be here.  We made it clear to him that in the absence of an order from the commanding general this isn’t a closed military area.  He warned us not to dare return (we’re not talking about the settlement’s land, but the Palestinians’ grazing lands which, although they’re defined as firing ranges, like the entire Jordan Valley, this particular dirt road isn’t a firing range – because of its proximity to the settlement’s fields).  The jeep drove off and to block our route where the dirt path joins the main road.  We drove around it and continued to Tayasir.  Right after the turn to Tayasir an army jeep showed up, a soldier got out, came over to us and said that the security man from Beqa’ot photographed my car’s license plate and called the army.  The soldier said we weren’t permitted to be in the area of Salamin because it’s a closed military area.  We asked him to show us the order, which doesn’t exist, of course, so we informed him that we’ll continue to go there because it’s not a closed military area, and drove off.

16:15 – Tayasir checkpoint

Seven cars in line.  The checkpoint is closed.  People waiting say they’ve been there half an hour.  They waited ten more minutes after we arrived until the checkpoint opened.  We saw that there had been a change of shifts, but does the checkpoint have to close for that, and for how long?

After the checkpoint opened, cars coming from the West Bank were inspected – documents and contents.  Pedestrians were carefully checked and came angrily through the checkpoint (because of the long wait, I assume).  The documents of passengers in the cars crossing from the Jordan Valley to the West Bank were inspected, and the lines continued.

An old man and his wife reached the soldiers’ position without having been summoned to advance.  He was punished and sent all the way back to wait at the imaginary line –“The Palestinians know where it is.”  He waited five minutes before being called forward to be inspected, where they told him to get out of the car, but he had difficulty getting out.  It turned out that he’s not only old, but also handicapped.  That didn’t particularly bother the soldiers, who made him open the trunk.  The old man tottered over with difficulty and did what they asked, but it wasn’t enough – now open the hood.  The old man did it with great effort.  Finally they made him bring the documents from the car, which seems to have been the only other thing they could think of, and despite their boredom they allowed him to continue.  When we left at 16:55 there were four cars on line from the west and four from the east.

Addition to the report regarding the arrest of three members of the Salamin family

All we could understand from talking to one of the others (the brother who got lost doesn’t remember the incident) is that the army left him on the road and he was ultimately picked up by the Palestinian police who’d found him at two in the morning.  He’d wandered, confused, for 18 hours, aimlessly, not knowing where he was – he’d forgotten everything.  Eyewitnesses saw him in the afternoon near Zbeidat, on Route 90 and near Ain al Bidan, near Nablus (where he was finally picked up by the Palestinian police).

On Thursday, 8.9.11, one of the brothers (Udai) was arrested again, this time together with his 14-year-old nephew, next to his home, accused of bypassing the Gochia checkpoint without a permit.  When he asked why he’d bypass the gate, since he lives to its east, which is where he is, there was no answer.  The soldiers handcuffed him and blindfolded him with a strip of flannel cloth used for cleaning weapons.  He was detained for four hours at the Hamra checkpoint while we tried to get the DCO officers, who’d come for that reason to the Hamra checkpoint, to do something about it.  The two youths were released at the Hamra checkpoint; it took them another hour and a half to get home, without money, without documents, at a location without public transportation and almost no Palestinian traffic.

On Friday, 9.9.11, Udai was arrested again, this time together with another shepherd, Razi, from the Abu Sakar family.  They were handcuffed, beaten severely and blindfolded.  The reason – they hadn’t any identification.  One of them said he’d run home (200 meters away) to bring the documents, but the soldiers refused to relinquish their prey.  They were released two hours later, after the DCO intervened.

Destruction of wells in Nasariyya – report by the internationals

In Nasariyya, in Area B, the army destroyed three large wells, after having destroyed wells in the area last week as well.  Nasariyya is located on the road between the Hamra checkpoint and Nablus, west of the checkpoint.