Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Wed 10.10.07, Afternoon

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Milat S. and Dafna B. (reporting)
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

Translation: Ruth F.

It was very crowded at Huwwara checkpoint, it took a lot of time to pass and it was done with a lot of nerves, the soldiers used physical violence towards the Machsom Watch shift.

14:17 Za'atara- 
A Palestinian cab was standing by the side of the road for 10 minutes (so we were told), the checkpoint commander, Faras, from the BP took their IDs. For the next 10 minutes, the time it took him to hand them back, I didn't take my eyes of him- he went back and forth, came to talk to us ("are there any problems?") while the IDs were in his hands. He didn't make a phone call or anything of the sort. He had detained them for 20 minutes for his sheer pleasure.

14:30- Huwwara-
There were many people, it was very crowded in all of the lines, the car lanes were very long- both those leading inside and those leading out. People came out of the checkpoint angry and cursing. They have been waiting for an hour and half or even two hours. There were 3 detaineesinfo-icon but they wouldn't allow us to see them. The atmosphere inside the checkpoint was one of heavy distress. It was very tense and we felt it could get violent.

Buss were being inspected: all the passengers were taken off and sent backwards into Nablus, about 20 meters away from the bus, they stood there waiting sometimes even all across the road which caused heavy traffic which wasn't light as it was, they continued until all the IDs were checked. Two IEAPPI volunteers (a peace organization founded by the churches) were standing on the side quietly. One of them had a camerainfo-icon but she wasn't taking any photos while one of the soldiers passed by her and threatened: "I'm going to break her camera".

The volunteer's partner stood on the other side and told them that there were 170 women on the humanitarian line and that the soldiers were inspecting it slower and more strictly then the men's line. From where we were it was hard to tell how many men were, but the shed seemed to be crowded and every once in a while we could hear a shout from there. All we could see was the mass of people. Every young man that came out had his belt in his hand.

The soldiers, with sergeant I. as their leader, tried forcing us to stand behind the white line which isn't near the checkpoint. I refused but I also wasn't standing to close either. I was by the cement bricks where the first white line was drawn trying to see what was going on.

A woman came out, she was very pale. A young Palestinian doctor took care of her- she was apparently gone through a dialysis and had sutures in her arm. She crowded in with the mass of people in the humanitarian line where she got pushed which made the needle come out. When she took her plaster off her arm looked terrible, it was blue and swollen. The doctor called for an ambulance, the soldiers kept sending them backwards, "Imshi, Imshi" barked one of the soldiers. We looked in vain for a chair she could sit on until the ambulance came.
Two other detainees were sent to the cell. Now they were five. After a couple of minutes two of them were released. One had been detained for 3.45 hours, according to what the IEAPPI volunteers said.

I saw I. enter the cell and one of the soldiers covered for him from the outside. Since we received complaints about I.s violence I stood in a spot from which I could see what was going on in the cell, which of course is behind the cement wall (which of course I can't pass)- about 1.5 km from the wall. I took photos of what was going on, you can't see I.s face since his back was facing me. He came out and yelled at me, telling me to go away, that I am disturbing him while he was doing his job, that he would call the police. I refused to leave as long as he was standing in a closed place where no one could see what he was doing to the detainees. Three other soldiers arrived and threatened me to stop taking photos. The solider explained to the Palestinians that it was because of me that they were detained, if it weren't for me being there they would have already been released.

The soldiers stood back and so did I.

I. sent us and the volunteers away from the checkpoint saying he wanted the humanitarian line move faster and that we would get in his way. Even though that made no sense, we stood back.

When we came back to the spot where we stood, behind the white line, he came back and demanded that we all go even further away, behind the last bricks, a place from where we wouldn't be able to see anything.
I refused and he said he was going to call the police, I answered that this was my right, that I wasn't coming near the soldiers, not talking to them nor bothering them. He later brought a second lieutenant called L. who claimed to be a policeman. Since he was wearing military uniforms I asked to see is ID and he showed me a military police ID and demanded that I leave the checkpoint (with accordance to I.s orders). They demanded that I step into the humanitarian spot and I refused that as well. So I. decided to take me into the cell which is on the other side of the checkpoint. He called two other soldiers from the MP and told them to take me by force.
 I sat on the ground, refusing to get into the cell. The soldiers, according to I.'s orders, caught me by my ankles and started dragging me on the ground which caused my shirt to rise and my back got scratched by the asphalt. They dragged me like this for about 20 meters, another soldier came and told them to stop because "it doesn't look good". My back is now covered with scratches and wounds. Israel told one of the soldiers to bring some plastic handcuffs, but for some reason they didn't (someone probably convinced them not to handcuff me, since that as well wouldn't look good). Then about 8 soldiers began consulting each other and decided to let me go. Israel came back to tell me that I was under arrest and that the police would be there any minutes (The whole event was documented by a photographer from Ma'ariv and the international volunteers).

Click here to see a short video of the events.

By the way, the first one who ran away from the soldiers and stood back like a good little boy was the photographer from Ma'ariv...

Afterwards a major called E. arrived, he was calm and listened to our version, it seemed that he also got the soldiers to calm down and told I. to stand on the other side of the checkpoint. Until the end of our sift, two hours later, I. didn't come near us.

Two of the detainees were released, we didn't see when. There was only one left and he was released by 17:00- he sat there for 2.5 hours.

At 17:30- the end of the fast, they put another detainee in the cell, he was released 15 minutes later.

A tall female soldier (K., I think) kept barking at the Palestinians, she came to a young and frightened woman, who was waiting for her sister, she stroked her stomach and said "Bebe?"- This woman had no status didn't even have control over her body- apparently she didn't understand French and kept looking at the soldier with a terrified look.

Afterwards she decided to make a student that had passed all the inspections and he came out of the last turnstiles, pass another inspection. Yalla, put everything outside on the floor, more and more, until she was satisfied.

She took a young woman in a veil to the inspection cell. The woman had three daughters, the older one was 9 and the youngest was 4. They were left outside all alone.

They pressed against each other trying to feel secure under the growing darkness. With my poor Arabic I tried communicating with them and managed to raise some bashful smiles. After 5 minutes their mother came out and took them.

I don't' understand, the inspection cell is behind the cell and there is a window that connect them- how could a woman take her clothes off while there is a man detainee on the other side of the window.

At 17:45 an elder man came to us pleading. "Could you help me?" he came from Nablus on the day before at 20:00 with his wife and kids in his cab. He was at the hospital (he kept saying Kupat Holim but when I talked to him later I understood that he meant "hospital") with his child so he was late. The soldier wouldn't let him pass and get back home which was at Tima (I hope i didn't get the name wrong). During the argument (if you could call the man's pleading that) the soldier raised his rifle and broke the window shield of the cab, while the family, including the children, was inside!!!

I asked him if he saw the soldier that did that and he looked around, then he pointed directly at sergeant I.

It was at the point that the police arrived and after a short talk with the soldier a policeman came to us, Shmulik Ben Hemo and sergeant O. that said he was replacing I. and that he would be the checkpoint commander. Ben Hammo told us that in future we were to do as the soldiers say even if their orders are wrong, and the even he does as they tell him. He suggested that we leave the checkpoint when the soldiers tell us to go and call the police to complain (right, so now we are suppose to start pestering the police...), anyhow he would much rather prefer it if he wasn't sent for... he wrote our names down, I told him that I would like to place a complaint for assault and he told me I could do that in Ariel.

I asked that he talk to the Palestinian and he told him his story. He also said that I. threatened to kill him and his children, then O. yelled "that's no true, he only threatened you, he didn't threaten your children". O. didn't deny that the window shield was broken, but said that there was more to this story.

Ben Hemmo advised the man, who is a cab driver and there for had the window fixed already, to come with use to Ariel and place a complaint, but the man wanted to go and "break the fast". I gave this information to Yesh Din and they will escort him while he places the complaint.
18:00 We left.
At Za'atara there were no line.