Below is the January 2004 summary of Machsomwatch's observations based on 120 independent observations at 12 different checkpoints. Detailed reports can be found on our website: www.machsomwatch.org and direct links are provided from this summary to the reports referred to below.
The most difficult situation in respect to restrictions on movement and human right abuse was observed by MachsomWatch volunteers at checkpoints around Nablus, with Beit Iba (Dir Sharaf) being the worst of all. All checkpoints around the Nablus area are internal checkpoints whose purpose is to restrict movement from one Palestinian area to another. Huwwara checkpoint controls the movement southbound from Nablus. Beit Furik checkpoint prevents people from Beit Furik and four other villages to enter Nablus from the East. Sarra checkpoint was used as an east-west passage to and from Nablus, but was closed for all except for Sarra residents, thus forcing those who want to reach Nablus to go through Beit Iba. For some people it prolongs the way by 20 km. Beit Iba checkpoint cotrols the movement westbound from and eastbound to Nablus. People who have to pass there have to wait sometimes for hours. The situation created at the Beit Iba checkpoint is chaotic and soldiers resort to the use of force to implement army orders.
On January 3 AM Nablus was still under a long closure. Only extremely difficult humanitarian cases, using ambulances only, were allowed to pass. A truck with medical supply was prevented from entry. On January 6 PM and January 8 PM movement was allowed, but ambulances were not allowed to pass until the intervention of Machsomwatchers. Ill and disabled are very frequently forced to use ambulances and to pay NIS 250 (around 50$) just for passing the checkpoints (see Beit Iba January 24 PM). At all checkpoints there is no special route for people in need of medical help and special care who are unable to wait 4-6 hours in a line (see Beit Iba January 21 PM). The passage of ill people is determined by young, inexperienced soldiers, who judge if a person with hemophilia, need for a brain CT scan, a broken wrist or appendix inflammation is a serious medical case or not (see Huwwara January 10 AM, Beit Iba January 24 PM). Men between 15/16 to 35/45 years old are prevented from moving without permits. Permits (theoretically) can be obtained at the DCO office in Huwwara, which requires the passage through one or two checkpoints – a typical “catch 22” situation (see Beit Iba January 24 PM). People’s need to move from one area to another forces them to try to bypass checkpoints. There are soldiers who hunt by passers and then punish them severely: some are beaten, all are punished by waiting for many hours for their IDs. Our observers reported that people were punished for 4-6 hrs, not allowed to sit, to stand or forced to crouch with a face to a wall so as to “prevent them from observing soldiers work”, as one soldier at Sarra checkpoint explained. (see Beit Furik January 3, Sarra January 19, Beit Iba January 24 PM , Beit Iba January 28 PM and Beit Iba January 31 AM). People are also punished severely for driving on “for Jews only” roads. Our observers witnessed a release from Huwwara detention of two men detained for 4 days for these charges. The release was embarrassing as people were led blindfolded and handcuffed across the road until released near the Huwwara checkpoint (see Huwwara January 8 PM).
Abu Dis Wall
MachsomWatch volunteers observed the erection of the 8m-high concrete-slab wall nearly every day during January. This wall is a part of a planned wall surrounding Jerusalem and disconnecting Palestinian neighbourhoods one from the other. On August 13, 2002 a 3m high concrete wall was build, across the main road connecting Al ‘Ezariya, Abu Dis and Sawahre with Ras el-Amud and East Jerusalem, thus completely preventing vehicle movement from those neighbourhoods to Jerusalem. People moved through this “old” wall by climbing over it. Climbing over the wall became a routine and was a “normal” route for children to reach their schools, for students to reach El-Quds University and for the ill to reach the nearby Al-Muqassed hospital. MachsomWatch observers described the unbearable life of the local people during this period, in their reports. An 8m high wall replacing an old one will prevent this way of moving around.
On January 9 AM workers started to prepare the ground for digging a ditch for the concrete blocks. On January 11 AM the building was started. The nearby area was closed for passage. Workers worked day and night (using strong light projectors) and in one week the new wall from the gas station till the mosque was built. Reports from January 11 AMtill January 28 PM describe a shocking view of the huge wall that destroys the communal life of around 60 thousand people. Residents of the area described the complete disregard of the local population during the building of the wall. It was impossible to reach the hospice for old people by car and food supplies and fuel for the 52 old people was possible only by a special permission with a special vehicle. Many houses were cut off from electricity supply for 8 hours (see January 13 PM, January 15 AM, January 16 AM). Residents reported about the enormous problems the wall created. Some of them have Palestinian ID and their homes are on the Western side of the wall, thus these people are “illegal” in their own houses. Other face an opposite problem: they have an Israeli ID but live on an Eastern side of the wall and have to go a long way through Maale Adumim in order to reach their homes (see January 17 AM).
On January 28 the building of the wall near the hotel was interrupted, due to an appeal by the owner to the court. It is noteworthy that during all this period the movement of people by climbing over huge concrete blocks placed about 200m north of the new wall was very active without interference by the Border Police.
Qalandiya - continuation of a “chronicle of a death foretold” and bribery
In the December 2003 summary of MachsomWatch activity the dangerous “game” between Qalandiya refugee camp children throwing stones and Israeli soldiers shooting at them was described. This “game “ resulted in killing the 15-year old, Fares Abed Al-Khader on December 9, 2003. It was a third youngster killed in the same way at Qalandiya checkpoint during 2003. The “game” stopped for a while but was resumed around January 15 PM when it was reported again after the brake in shootings. Reports from January 19 PM, January 20 PM,January 21 PM and January 28 PM all describe the same “game” where children pass through the barbed wire fence and throw stones, very far from the checkpoint thus without any real threat to soldiers and soldiers respond with tear-gas grenades and shooting into the youngsters’ crowd. The event was fully documented by French TV 2 journalists who went with MachsomWatch to Qalandiya checkpoint on January 21 PM. Our observers called the Israeli army “humanitarian hotline” and the main question asked was whether the youngsters touched the fence or not. It seems that touching the fence justifies shooting into trespassers and killing them. It is “interesting” to compare the attitude of the Israeli army towards shooting and killing of stone-throwing youngsters and the bribery case which was recently discovered. Seven soldiers from Qalandiya checkpoint were arrested for taking bribes from Palestinians and the whole army unit to which they belong was dismantled. ( See an extensive report on this subject from January 28 PM.) The Israeli army has no moral problem with killing youngsters, who protest against the unbearable Israeli occupation by throwing stones (not endangering soldiers as was witnessed by our observers many times), but bribery cases are taken very seriously.