'Azzun 'Atma, Eliyahu Crossing, Habla, Mon 18.2.13, Morning
For an hour and a half, during the busiest time, the 'Azzun' Atma checkpoint was closed because of the soldiers’ whims.
06:05 'Azzun 'Atma checkpoint
About 90 people wait in a longer line than usual at this hour. The checkpoint commander immediately wants to move us back, but only symbolically. He must demonstrate who’s in charge, and continues doing so later.
The line begins about a meter behind the checkpoint gate; only two at a time are permitted to advance and stand ready to continue toward the inspection point. But, like all lines, it slowly moves closer to the gate, which is an obvious indicator of how far they can go, unlike the imaginary line farther from the gate at which they were supposed to stand because of the soldiers’ whims.
06:20. Nobody goes through! The soldiers close the gate. That’s it! It’s time to teach the Palestinians a lesson.
The Palestinians stubbornly remain standing at the gate. The truth is that it’s very difficult to push back a line of nearly 100 people. And meanwhile more join the motionless line.
The checkpoint commander arrives a few minutes later (he’d been hunting people who were sneaking through holes in the fence – there were more than a few). Now, as at the Habla checkpoint last week, the army begins “educating” the Palestinians. We telephoned the DCO – they said they’d take care of it.
Meanwhile, the soldiers leave the (closed) gate and wander around the checkpoint, chatting. The tension rises among those waiting behind the fence; a few soldiers return to argue with the Palestinians but the situation doesn’t change and nothing happens.
Another call to the DCO doesn’t bring any result. We’re told, “the Palestinians aren’t obeying the soldiers.”
Nevertheless, army personnel arrive, mutter to us “It’ll be ok…”, wander around the checkpoint and… leave, and nothing happens.
Children arrive on their way to school, wait to cross to 'Azzun 'Atma from the “Israeli” side. After a while the soldier with the key to the vehicle gate is located and the children go through.
The checkpoint commander went hunting again, returning with a man who’d gone through a hole in the fence because he had to get to work. His ID was confiscated; he was sent back to the 'Azzun' Atma side.
07:05 The gate opens, two people cross, the gate closes again, two more cross and again the gate closes. At 07:10 the gate closes and doesn’t reopen. We phone A., the DCO commander, who promises to take care of it.
A boy comes riding a bicycle. The soldier who’s supposed to open the gate isn’t there and it takes a while until he appears to let the boy cross to school.
07:30 We contacted Chana B. All this time, the soldiers are wandering around the checkpoint, joking, having a good time, while a mass of people beyond the gate are anxious not to lose a day of work. But no one cares.
07:50 People are getting angry, yelling at the soldiers – the situation is pretty frightening.
08:00 Reinforcements arrive; the soldiers go to the line and try to restore order. Now they open the gate and begin letting people through four at a time, closing the gate after them until their inspection is complete.
A., from the DCO, called us twice to find out what was going on. The first time was after he’d been told that everything was alright, but it wasn’t. The second time there had, in fact, been a change, and people began crossing.
08:25 Habla checkpoint. The gate is still open (it’s supposed to close at 08:15); some cars, a cart and people are still going through, until no one remains and the soldiers close the crossing.
08:40 Eliyahu gate. Everything as usual; no line of people crossing on foot.
We gave a man documents to sign for submission to the court so he could be removed from the Shabak’s blacklist. Then we went home exhausted, sad and angry.