'Azzun 'Atma, Sun 18.5.08, Morning

Facebook Twitter Whatsapp Email
Nava M., Hagar L. Tranlator: Orna B.

We left for a special shift to Azzun - Atme, following a long list of acts of violence committed by soldiers at the checkpoint.
The checkpoint consists of a gate through the separation fence, at
the passage between Palestinians territories and the Palestinian
village of Azzun - Atme which remained on the western side of the fence
(the so-called Israeli side, but the areas are in fact in Palestinian
ownership, and belong to the village and other surrounding villages).
A description of the village life
We parked the car on the road to the ShaareiTikva [Hope Gatesinfo-icon], a
road which divides the village in two and leaves a group of houses on
the west side, where an ordinary fence (to distinguish from the
Separation Fence) and a road block made of rocks on the road between
the two parts of the village, prevent crossing the road from one side
of the village to the other by car. From the road to Shaarei Tikva the
access to Israeli territories within the Green Line borders is
completely free. After  a certain time the inhabitants of Azzun-Atme
opened an gap in the fence next to the road which is blocked by rocks
as mentioned above. Gradually they marked a path for crossing to the
other side. We elected not to test our car on that "path". We parked it
and walked across the rocks road block, which in fact has no official
pedestrian crossing facility, to the main part of the village.
Transferring goods from the main part of the village to the group of
houses and small businesses on the western side of the village, is
usually performed using the manual back-to-back system (see the  photos
attached to this report). The separation fence surrounds the village
from the East with a North /South bend, and the fence along the road
blocks it from the West, thus separating, as mentioned before the two
parts of the village. Beyond all the fences and the road blocks, the
road to Israel is actually open to anyone going through the road block
at the Separation Fence, or to anyone entering through a section where
there is no separation fence, (the region of the village of Zaweia),
who can then cross Route 5 and then be swallowed by olive groves in the
Palestinian areas, within the Green Line borders (the line from Rosh
Ha'Ayin till Kafer Kasem in this region, and  the line of Zaweia lands
- Meskha-Azzun-Atme)
This is an area where many workers are working without the
entrance permits to Israel, issued by the Civic Administration.  There
are days when they go through with the full support of the army and on
other days the army organises man-hunts through the olive groves. On
their way back from their work in Israel , most workmen prefer to enter
via the Azzun-Atme road block. They get down to the road block and
re-enter the West Bank territory. This is the background to the many
violent scenes occuring at the road block. The army uses an instant
direct (though informal) punishment system at the road block, instead
of taking people to court. (For what can they accuse them of - entering
Azzun - Atme without a permit? Azzun - Atme is not exactly an Israeli
village which is within the Green Line borders.) The normal punishment
is detention of 4 hours, and lately there have been beatings.
Some of the people who are not residents of the village, enter
through the road block to go and work in one of the settlements in the
area: Oranit, Shaarei Tikva, Etz Ephrayim, Elkana, with special work
permits for the settlements. For the village residents going through
the road block involves presenting an ID card which states that they
reside permanently in Azzun-Atme.
In addtion to the three groups we have described above, there is a
fourth group - pupils and teachers, who study and teach at the two
village schools. The pupils have to present a student's card (their
bags are examined), and the soldiers have a full list of all the pupils
(we speak mainly of secondary school children but also younger pupils
of the lower classes of primary school). Entering teachers too are
checked according to a list the soldiers possess. In addition to the
above there are all the officials: those belonging to the governing
authorities., or doctors who also need special permits to enter the
For special events, of mourning or joy, the families from the
village have to submit in advance to the DCO an exact list  of all
those invited, and he has to approve those who will go through. The
stay [of those invited] in the village is limited to a few hours. Many
of those leaving the village for reasons of marriage or business prefer
to retain the Azzun-Atme Identity Card so that they can come and visit
their families. But their spouses who are not residents cannot enter
the village with them. The same goes for parents of children who study
at the school but do not have the village ID card. So that if a
child falls ill  and needs to be colleced from school, or if he has an
accident, a parent cannot go through the road block, but has to wait
for the child to be brought to him/her at the other side of the road
block. Parents' evenings, school parties - are allowed only to those
with the village ID card, or with a special permission (or refusal)
from the DCO. According to the regular DCO representative of this
checkpoint, Abas,  in the last year village ID cards were granted to
inhabitants who up till then had only Jordanian passports, who had
therefore been unable to leave the village. The village has about 2000
inhabitants, but about 7000 people have Azzun - Atme ID cards.
Because the passage through the road block gives one direct and
simple access to Israel we get a situation whereby people  forge the
registered place of residence in their ID cards. This is the background
for many violent scenes between soldiers and people who are trying to
enter the village but are refused entrance. Since we have started to
visit this road block more often, we witness daily arrests on the
grounds of suspected forgery of ID cards.
Next to the main road to Shaarei Tikva (the fence blocks driving
on it) there is a large parking lot and a transport service to the
checkpoint below, (a few minutes' drive but a rather long walk), a
service that provides livelihood to a fair number of village
In the village there are 2 schools: a co-ed secondary school, and
a co-ed primary school + a secondary girls school, for girls who do not
want to attend the co-ed school. The co-ed secondary school is the
nearest building to the checkpoint, and Shaarei Tikva which is right
next to it, suffocates it. And now they are building two more houses at
a stone throw distance from the school (same as on the road up to the
village itself). (See enclosed the photo Osnat R. took).
In the past week the Israeli civic administration did not
approve plans to enlarge the school, and even the building of toilets
for the school required an International intervention after two years
of waiting for a building consent.
Building of houses in the village is practically impossible since
the Israeli civic authorities do not grant building permits anywhere
beyond the built line which existed before the fence was built.
Up till the time when the fence was built the village had
an excellent large active fruit and vegetables market, which provided
good livelihood to many villagers. The village has many green houses
and water is drawn from several wells. Lately water and earth are being
poluted by the open sewers system of the neighbouring settlements.
The busiest days at the checkpoint are the days on which many try
to cross over to Israel for work (Saturday pm and Sunday am), or for
family events (Friday - Saturday), and on Thursday pm when many return
from Israel after working there all week.
Chronologiacl details:
6:30 - we got here after the busiest time ( we just found out that
the checkpoint opens at 05:00) since most workers going through this
checkpoint had already passed earlier on.  There are a few cars on both
sides of the road block and a few people. There are no queues. The
soldiers behave calmly and check those passing through continuously.
D., a female lieutenant from a rescue and save unit is the checkpoint
We go through to the East side of the checkpoint, to the village
entrance (the inspection room), encountering no problems. There are 26
people in the queue to the inspection room. One of those in the queue
complains and D. approaches him and talks to him. The commander invites
all those without bags to go through and she only checks their ID cards
and permits.
About 5 people enter the inspection room at one time. Inside the
inspeciton building there is a hatch where everyone who enters puts his
ID card. He then proceeds to the inspeciton room and goes through a
magnometer. Two soldiers (a male and a female) sit in a separate room,
separated from the magnometer room by a thick armoured glass wall. At
the end of the inspection the person going through receives his ID
card. We cannot see the inside of the room but since those leaving
it are refitting their belts, we conclude that they are well rehearsed
with the routine of the inspection: taking off belts, lifting their
shirts, etc. Women and young children too go through the inspection
room, and we understood from the soldiers that they too go through the
A man with a commercial permit to enter Israel, is refused entrance and is told to go to Eyal Passage.
A small lorry with boards goes through the road block at about
07:00, when we ended our shift and went back to the parking lot. We saw
the lorry unloading its load in the line-to-back system straight into
the back of an Israeli lorry. The contractor is a Palestinian, who is
building in one of the settlements. He has to transfer the materials
manually (see photos attached). Lieutenant D. is holding two green ID
cards. She has been waiting for their owners to collect them since
Saturday pm. According to her she had not heard of the incident of
Saturday morning (see Noa P.'s report about the telephone call on
Saturday am) during which 40 ID cards had been confiscated from
residents because it was claimed that they had been trying to cross
over to Israel without permits. She explained to us that if the
soldiers do not report such incidents, the commanders have no way of
finding out about them.
07:20 Teachers and pupils are starting to go through. The pupils
present their students' cards and are sent to one of the female
soldiers at one of the posts for verification against the students'
list. A boy is refused entrance - he is not a pupil at the school.  
06:00 - 07:30 Six cars at the entrance. 4 at the exit. The
inspection includes presentation of ID cards and wrok permits when
needed, and the opening of car boots. Later that morning I was
contacted by M., the deputy head of the council who asked for my help
because his cellular phone had stolen from the back seat of his car
when he had gone back to open the car boot for the inspection. On the
Thursday shift that same week the checkpoint commander told me that the
complaint is known to them and is being investigated by the Military
Police. It is important to note that there are not many soldiers at
this checkpoint.
07:50 The last pupils are hurrying to go through to school.
We leave the checkpoint. We are given a lift by a villager who
knows me, and stop at the shop of H.'s father to collect some Xrays in
order to get an expert opinion from a neurologist (Ada H.'s partner)
H. had been beaten unconscious by soldiers at the checkpoint about
10 days ago (see the report of 13.5.08). The Xrays have not arrived yet
and we hurry home, and get stuck in the traffic jam at the entrance to
Israel and Tel Aviv.