Beit Iba, Jit, Sun 9.3.08, Afternoon
14:00 Jit Junction
No checkpoint at this hour, a large “Men at Work” road sign at the bend, on the way to Zaatra.
14:10 Deir Sharaf
At the minimarket, Jamal tells of a checkpoint set up the day before, right where the shop is, for five hours. He goes on to tell us about what happened near by, at his sister’s house -- all people put in one room, actually the courtyard of her house, phones taken... The reason? The army was looking for “two boys from Nablus,” and while doing so, evidently, went on a rampage, destroying furniture, stealing money (he doesn’t know if this is true), and wreaking havoc. He asks if we want to see for ourselves. We return two hours later to do so. (See separate report “Revenge” in Deir Sharaf, Saturday, March 8 2008.)
On today’s Beit Iba shift, we visited the families where soldiers, just 24 hours earlier, had run riot. Jamal, the mini market owner, on the main road in Deir Sharaf, has many of his large family living in the village. On the southern side of the village, off the main road leading to the Beit Iba checkpoint are half a dozen houses, on a dirt path, leading southwards up the hill, in the midst of olive groves and fruit trees in blossom. The silvery olive trees, this warm and wet spring, stand over brilliant green grass and bouquets of wild spring flowers. The setting is beautiful, the main road, leading to the checkpoint is almost hidden from view, but the settlement of Shavei Shomron forever towers over and lords it over the people who live below.
We went first to visit Jamal’s sister, Souhela Moussa, who owns a pleasant house, with a broad courtyard, shaded by a tree, bearing bright pink blossom in this part of the village.
On Saturday, at around 2:30 to 3:00 in the afternoon, we learn from Souhela and from the women who sit with her and their small children and babies in the courtyard, about 15 jeeps tore along the dirt road and stopped by her house. About 30 or more soldiers proceeded to order all the neighbors, from the surrounding ten houses, to assemble in her courtyard, relieved everybody of their phones, and proceeded to run amok.
We went into three of the houses that were wrecked. Cupboards turned over, clothes from children’s cupboards and bedding strewn all over the floor, furniture, including sofas, stuffed chairs and tables, torn apart, walls covered with soot from smoke bombs, a computer destroyed, a porcelain toilet in one house, a porcelain sink in another wrecked, plastic chairs thrown from a roof: lives of a peaceful community wrecked, money stolen, and this by the so-called Israel Defense Forces, in the name, we suppose of “security” but more likely of revenge?
On Saturday afternoon, 20 year old Eyed Ahmad Hamad Nofal was on the main road, coming from Beit Iba with two of his friends, one from Jenin, one from Beit Lid. Eyad is a student at An Narjah University. We learned from his family, including his distraught mother, a neighbor of Souhela’s, that he was stopped on the main road by soldiers, demanding to know where he lived. The jeeps and soldiers’ arrival at Souhela’s house were a result of Eyad being accosted. He and his two friends were taken away by the soldiers, and, of course, his family know not where.
What we can’t see for ourselves – the nightly army break-ins and destruction in the city of Nablus.
14:45 Beit Iba
Not many people, about three dozen men in the regular checking lines. A lot of soldiers, doing what is not exactly clear. As we arrive, the commander, Second Lieutenant A., claps his arm around the shoulder of a young man, as he leads him to the detention compound.
The DCO representative, minus armband, comes to chat with us. Soon after he leaves, A., the commander, who’s not been here before, comes to where we’re standing, “That’s the area of the checkpoint. You can’t stand there.” We insist that this is where we always stand, that where he wants us to go, behind the humanitarian checking booth, serves no purpose for our monitoring task. Without further ado, he closes the checkpoint, meaning everything is at a standstill; people are “stuck” where they are. As we move back from “the area of the checkpoint,” we are on the phone to our colleague, and the checkpoint is once again opened. The entire incident, a violation of our rights, takes but a few minutes.
The DCO representative takes care not to intervene and to avoid us for the next twenty minutes. He wanders over to two detainees in the compound. It looks as if he takes them to the lock up, but since we can’t see, we may be mistaken. A few minutes later, A. goes in that direction, releases one man, again putting his arm around the young man’s shoulder (how inappropriate can one get)!
15:10 -- the DCO and A. are at the humanitarian line, the former chewing his finger nails (a non-stop exercise). They are joined by S., a military policewoman and “shoot the breeze” for the next few minutes. There are plenty of soldiers around to do what must be done at the checkpoint. It’s hard to see, from our vantage point, how many vehicles are in the line to exit Nablus, not many. On the other hand, into Nablus, once again, huge Zim container trucks, and lumber from Finland.
The DCO representative comes over to us, “Today, he decides: he’s the commander,” he mutters nonchalantly. And that is that.
A final note: during this shift, we phoned the Humanitarian Center to find out about “closure” in the OPT today. We got no straight answers at all as to where there was closure, or if there was closure. “Wait a minute” over and over again. No straight answers. As if they had never heard of such a phenomenon. Or, as if they had no prepared and ready text for a response to a simple question.