Huwwara, Sat 13.9.08, Afternoon

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Natanya G., Hanna B. (reporting)

Natanya translating.

We left Jerusalem at 11.00 so as to get to Huwwara in the afternoon.
This because of information we had received last week about the main hours of activity in Ramadan.
Already in Jerusalem we were informed of the happenings at Asira al-Qibiliya. 
We decide to go there on road 60 . At the entrance at the side stood a jeep (which stands there on Saturdays and also during the week. Everything seemed quite and so we did not enter.
When we came to Huwwara there was little traffic at the checkpoint but gradually more people started to arrive. One Palestinian was detained, it seemed a disturbed man who had got into a confrontation with the soldiers.  His brother tried to speak to the commander so as to have him freed but the soldiers said that they were waiting for the police.
As the checkpoint was calm the commander came to speak to us. We had been asked by Sylvia to meet someone so the conversation was cut off but we explained to the commander that we were going to meet with a  "transparent prisoner". He asked us what we mean and we promised to come back to speak to him. It was interesting to know that this man who had passed a captain's course did not know that this was and to his credit he listened and asked us questions to the point.
In the meantime we got a call about Asira al-Qibliah and decided to try to get there to see what was happening. Before we could leave we heard shots from the direction of the checkpoint and the loudspeaker announced a stoppage of life.  Everyone who was inside the checkpoint itself was told to bend down with the head below the height of the cement blocks. Immediately soldiers and border police appeared from all over and even the brigade commander and it seemed as if the Third World War was breaking out.
In the end the entire incident only took about 15 minutes and then the checkpoint was opened and everyone was sent through quickly and the checkpoint emptied out. 
Only later did we understand what had happened.
During Ramadan Israeli Arabs are allowed to enter. A group of Palestinians whom people at the checkpoint called the "Mafia" had decided to take 5 shekel from Israeli cars passing the checkpoint. Two of the visitors decided not to pay and that they were not prepared to be part of this highway robbery and an argument had ensued which soon became violent. At this point the Israelis had fled to the checkpoint with the Palestinians after them. The soldiers of course were put under pressure to separate the groups and when they were unable to do so they shot into the air and threw a shock grenade. After pursuit they caught 4 men of about 20. They handcuffed them and put two into the isolation and two into what is knows as the "humanitarian point."
When the soldiers had returned to their course we decided to go to Asira, When we came back to the checkpoint we saw an Israeli  army ambulance waiting. After a few minutes a man was taken out of the isolation and put into the ambulance. We saw that he had a wound which was not large. About an hour later he returned and was put into the isolation in an improved condition.
A few minutes later an Israeli car appeared with all the windows and windscreens broken and the fender completely torn. The car was a TOTAL LOSS. It seems that the Israeli owner had refused to pay to the "Mafia"  and they had decided to show him what they could do. One of the two people who had been involved had been taken to hospital with a fractured skull and both had been beaten. Now it turned out that the stoppage of life and all the commotion had been caused by a war between Palestinians and Palestinians and the army which had intervened.
We went to Asira this time through Burin and Madama. When we got to the entrance of the village soldiers stopped us and said the place was under curfew and no one could go in or come out. We met a taxi driver who was not allowed to return to his home after work. We heard from him some information about what had happened and as we had no option we went back to Huwwara.

16.15 We returned to Jerusalem