Makkabim (Beit Sira)
05:15 – 07:00
The occupation went on as usual at the start of our shift – the line stretched to the first revolving gate, two inspection booths were open and the line moved fairly quickly most of the time. Every few minutes it stopped until they’d finished checking the ID of someone who’d been detained (usually for ten minutes), so that on average it took 15 minutes to go through.
At about 06:00 the line at the main inspection station (which is faster) was stopped. Everyone was ordered to move back beyond the revolving gate through which they’d entered, which was closed. Only the five people who’d been detained to check IDs remained within. They were taken one by one to the “room” for an “inspection” lasting a few minutes. Their shoes and the contents of their pockets were repeatedly sent through the scanner. Finally (after half an hour) it seemed to us all five were released and allowed to continue on their way, but that station (the main one, which usually goes faster) remained closed for at least half an hour until all five had been checked, and only the second inspection station operated, slowly. The revolving gate outside was also closed so a very long line of dissatisfied people formed inside the building and also outside, towards the road. After the detainees were released both the main inspection station and the revolving gates opened. We could see people going through more quickly than usual; in half an hour the congestion had eased.
Perhaps a delay of half an hour doesn’t seem long to a person reading this report who doesn’t have to go through the checkpoint every day, but to wait half an hour at a locked revolving gate and not know when it will reopen, how long will it take to get through, and whether your employer and transportation are still waiting despite the delay is very difficult and frustrating. Palestinians complained there were similar delays all week. They asked us to help, to bring the media.
We asked to speak to the checkpoint commander. He came accompanied by the person in charge of the shift and two others who seemed to be senior (we weren’t sure). The commander said the delay was due to security concerns. In response to our question he denied there had been similar delays all week. He said that when something like that occurs he can’t allow people to cross until the problem has been investigated. He’ll consider in the future notifying those waiting how long they’ll be delayed.