05:05 - 09:30
05:05 Reihan-Bartaa Checkpoint
Two huge trucks enter from the West Bank and are stopped on the side, above the vehicle checkpoint. Later on we will clarify.
Perhaps 80 people, workers and seamstresses, crowded in front of the entrance from the Palestinian parking lot into the sleeve leading to the terminal. They are entering in groups of five. More people are arriving, by vehicle and on foot. Someone says that, sometimes, it takes two hours from entry into the sleeve to exit from the terminal on the Seam Zone side.
Five loaded vans wait for the start of inspection at 06:00.
05:30 – all comers now enter the sleeve straight away, but they join the scores who still have not "won" entry into the terminal.
06:00 – still people outside the terminal. Five tenders move into the inspection compound.
06:10 Aanin Checkpoint
The gates are open since 06:00. Nobody has yet passed.
06:15 - the first tractor with four passengers, passes. Two soldiers are checking IDs, permits, and bags by the gate on the Aanin side. Two more are listing the people who pass at the middle gate. The pace is not fast, but we have seen slower.
06:25 – a tractor crosses. The driver, elderly and ill, shows us his medications, and says that his 15-year-old son has not been allowed to pass. A check with the DCO elicits that the boy may pass. At 07:00, after phone calls back and forth, the boy crosses.
07:10 – a woman crosses, and says that her 14-year-old son was not allowed to pass. Again, phone calls to the DCO. At 07:30 she is called to "identify" her son, and both go through.
07:25 – some ten men are left behind, without valid permits. They try to argue with the soldiers, but it does not help.
07:35 – a woman who crossed with her son wants to return. She forgot her medications at home. She is returning without the son. We hope he won’t encounter difficulties when he returns in the afternoon. The soldiers lock the gates.
The problem of 12- to 16-year-olds keeps coming back. Children of 12 are permitted to cross when accompanied by parents, and are listed in the parents’ permits. Over 16 they have IDs and permits of their own. Between 12 and 16, they are entitled to pass with the parents, according to the DCO, but these soldiers are new and they don’t know it.
07:45 Shaked-Tura Checkpoint
Light traffic at this hour. A man wants to take through 100 square metres of ceramic tiles, but is only allowed 20 square metres. He is renovating his house, and would bring the 100 square metres in five trips.
A man from Daher el Malih, in the Seam Zone, said that he wanted to transfer a 50-kilo sack of flour from the West Bank, and was only allowed a small part of it. Three children arrive with two empty wheelbarrows. The children cross to the West Bank, to Tura, and return with a sack of flour in one wheelbarrow, and a sack of onions in the other. They are not allowed to transfer the sacks. A phone call to the DCO does not elicit a clear answer at this point. Later, the DCO says the sacks can be taken through. We have left Shaked already, and can only hope that the answer reached the soldiers.
08:30 Reihan-Bartaa Checkpoint
The Palestinian parking lot is full of cars waiting for passengers, but few are crossing to the West Bank this morning.
Scores of people wait in the entry sleeve – an unusual sight at this hour. People continue to arrive, through the gate, to join the waiting crowd in the sleeve. Sharon, the Ministry of Defense supervisor, is not on the spot, but promises to investigate.
09:30 – the pressure at the entrance has slackened, but still not all have entered the terminal. We leave.
10:30 – Sharon phones to say that the pressure in the sleeve was the result of a wave of 150 people arriving at 08:00 – not usual for that hour. According to him, the pressure dropped by 10:00. Sharon is very proud of the way the checkpoint functions, and of the fact that opening has been moved to 05:00. He tries to explain why it is impossible to be more efficient and faster during times of pressure. We didn’t understand. Sharon says that the number of people passing the checkpoint has increased recently by 30% and now reaches 2200 in each direction. Part of the increase is because they can now cross into Israel through Reihan, not only into the Seam Zone. At night the checkpoint closes at 22:30, and there remains only a small team in case of humanitarian needs.
We asked about the huge trucks, which remained parked all the time we were there, with police vehicles next to them. Sharon said that the drivers were Israeli Arabs who are not allowed to pass at this checkpoint. One of them has no driving license and the other is "wanted" for imprisonment