'Anabta, Ar-Ras, Azzun, Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Wed 12.3.08, Morning
For some inexplicable reason life has come to a halt at Ar-Ras.
Thanks to us a huge jam has been cleared at Anabta.
One soldier causes a huge jam at the entrance to Qalqiliya.
The main entrance to Azzun is still blocked.
07:10 – No problems at the entrance. A soldier opens the village gate for us.
There aren't any Palestinians here.
Ar-Ras checkpoint (Farm 8)
07:10 – 07:30 – When we arrive life seems to have come to a halt. We haven't succeeded in finding out the reason. Our vehicle is not allowed to pass and we are told to stand next to it. Three or four cars stand on each of the checkpoint three sides. It's quite a lot compared to what we usually see at this hour. However, right after our arrival, the checks resume. Vehicles that come from the direction of Qalqiliya are not checked. On the other hand, those that come from the direction of Tulkarm are checked with unusual care. It seems that the checkpoint commander is a "self-starter". He even goes to find out what Nadim is doing in the vehicle parked on the other side of the checkpoint and tells him not to leave the vehicle, for his own safety.
07:50 – 08:15 – When we arrive, the line of cars from the direction of Tulkarm stretches beyond the turn of the road, which means more than 25 cars. Scores of pedestrians stand in line waiting for the check. Those are the people who got out of the taxis so as not to have to wait for the taxi to pass the checkpoint, preferring to pass it on foot and then take another taxi, even if it means walking a few hundred meters and paying for another taxi. As soon as we arrive, the cars start to pass quickly without being checked. A soldier signals each car to pass. One out of ten cars is checked.
07:55 – The end of the line can already be seen – 24 cars. The number of the pedestrians has also decreased. It is no longer worthwhile to pass on foot. A pick-up truck approaches the checkpoint out of the line from the direction of Tulkarm. A man comes on foot from the opposite direction, receives a package from the pick-up truck driver and walks with it to a taxi on the other side of the checkpoint. In this way, "back to back" transfer [of merchandise between vehicles that can't cross the checkpoint], they save the time of waiting at the checkpoint.
At the entrance to Tulkarm, where there are no long lines, they detain the cars and ask each driver a few questions. A driver who has come close to the soldier's post without being signaled, god forbid, is punished with stopping the checks for a few minutes.
08:15 – There aren't any cars in line from the direction of Tulkarm.
An unauthorized outpost set up near Kedumim a few months ago and declared evacuated is, judging from what we saw (a man coming out of a building), probably populated.
The way to the village through Funduq is more or less open. There is an earth rampart on the road set up by the army in order to block it. In the middle of the rampart, the drivers cleared some kind of passage.
The entrance is open.
The main entrance to the village from road 55 has been blocked for the last month by barbed wire and an earth rampart 3-4 meters high and 50 meters long. There is no trace of the road that was there. The western entrance is open as apparently is the road that leads from there east to Azzun, parallel to road 55. however, we haven't seen any car traveling the road. Perhaps it is due to the fact that 10:00 in the morning is a "dead" hour.
10:10 – 10:45 – The parking lot in front of the checkpoint is full of Israeli vehicles whose passengers, not allowed to bring their vehicles into the city, have left before entering.
There are 5-8 vehicles on each side of the checkpoint. As soon as we come to stand opposite the soldiers the passage of cars into Qalqiliya starts to delay clearly on purpose. Ten minutes later there are already 17 cars in line. Twenty five minutes later there are there over 30 cars and the line almost reaches the junction. On the other hand, at the exit from Qalqiliya the passage of cars is quick and there are never more than 2-3 cars in line.
The whole mess is caused by one soldier who conducts the check of vehicles that enter the city. First, he stops each car to ask questions, open the trunk and check it inside. Then, he leaves the post and goes for a few minutes to an adjacent tent. The second soldier at the post, for some reason, doesn't do any checking and just waits for him. After, he preaches to a cab driver who has pushed into the line.
10:25 – We thought that maybe the soldier was doing all this especially for us, so we said good-bye, went away from the checkpoint and continued to watch from afar. First it looked as if we were right. Eleven cars passed within 5 minutes without being checked. Then the soldier decided that a horse-drawn cart was not allowed to pass through the checkpoint. The argument with the cart owner took 7 minutes. Later another cart arrives, but after it passed still none of the cars started moving. We kept watching from afar. The soldier was arguing with another person. Fifteen minutes passed and none of the cars passed the checkpoint. We called the IDF Humanitarian Center. They promised to help.
10:45 – More than 30 cars are in line. We leave.