Beit Iba, Jit, Thu 4.12.08, Afternoon

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Tom K., Smadar H., Hagar L. (reporting) Translator: Charles K.

Thursday, the day settlers
were evacuated from the building in Hebron, settlers in the Nablus area
go on a rampage, throw rocks at Palestinian cars who also pay the price
of “restoring quiet” and once again learn who’s the boss around

Delay for the sake of delay
– The army blocked the return home for thousands of Palestinians for
many hours this afternoon, trucks and private cars had to go dozens
of kilometers out of their way because of a total closureinfo-icon of a main
road, about 1,500 people were held up for two to three hours at the
Beit Iba checkpoint, and then delayed for more hours at roadblocks. 
All this for no security reason at all.  The real reason: 
Settlers from Yitzhar, Kedumim, Shavei Shomron and other settlements
around Nablus threw rocks at cars belonging to Palestinian residents. 
We’ve never before seen such a misapplication of military authority
as we did on Thursday.  Instead of stopping and blocking some “wild
weeds,” the army preferred to completely stop the movement of thousands
of Palestinian residents.

15:10-16:25  Jit junction. 
A roadblock for cars coming from the west (Tulkarm, Beit Iba, Jenin). 
We weren’t able to see the end of the line, and according to witnesses
and estimates we concluded that it stretched for about 1.5 kilometers,
that is, almost to the Deir Sharaf junction, where there was another
roadblock, and further on Route 57 another one at the Beit Lid junction,
for cars that had just gone through the Anabta checkpoint.

Soldiers stop every car and
all passengers must get out, ID cards are collected but not checked
(a soldier glances at them briefly, and you get the impression that
the “inspection” is no more than an exercise in delay and control,
the goal being to delay cars going west toward Huwwara.  Cars damaged
by rocks thrown by settlers in the area of Yitzhar and Gil’ad Farm
arrive from the other direction.

Cars going west toward Tulkarm,
Jenin or Nablus have to stop because settlers who are stuck in the line
from the west are trying to bypass it.  Since the line is very
long (at least one kilometer), when they bypass it by driving in the
lane for cars coming in the other direction, traffic from the opposite
direction is quickly blocked.

So:  Palestinians who
have already been delayed for hours and angry settlers are stuck next
to each other and facing each other in a huge traffic jam.  If
the situation wasn’t so awful you could laugh at “the checkpoints’
contribution to the safety of the settlers.”  We call the Humanitarian
Center and complain about this unnecessary and dangerous roadblock. 
After about 15 minutes some commanding officer arrives and orders the
soldiers to set up another roadblock: at the next junction (where the
road from Sara meets Route 60) – with the goal of completely blocking
Palestinian cars from going east and redirecting them towards Jit-al Funduk. 
At the same time, settlers’ cars continue to be allowed to go east. 

For a few minutes cars go through
without stopping and then the soldiers focus on redirecting cars toward
Jit, up Route 55.  Some cars stop because the drivers don’t know
how to get from there to Ramallah, for example.  A truck stops,
hoping that Route 60 might be opened, and he could drive to the Beita
market (10 km. away, he says, instead of a 40 km. detour).  Settlers
who managed to bypass the line curse and threaten us.  Two female
settlers, one holding a babyinfo-icon in her arms, stand between Palestinian
cars stopped up the road.  Their goal – provocation.  But
the Palestinians ignore them.  A minibus-taxi stops next to us
and its driver points to his shattered window and other damage to the
vehicle.  Settlers threw rocks at him when he was stuck in a traffic
jam opposite the Shomron Industrial Park.  When we drove by there
later we saw the rock that had been thrown at him, the size of a small
boulder.  Drivers report that there’s also a roadblock at the
Deir Sharaf junction which delayed them even before they reached the
long line at the Jit junction roadblock.

16:30  Settlers from
Shavei Shomron block the road with stones
.  On our way to Beit
Iba we see four settlers from Shavei Shomron coming to the road and
beginning to block it with rocks (near the location of the new roadblock). 
We stop and ask some soldiers who are busy installing the gate to call
brigade headquarters and notify them of the roadblock.  Two jeeps
arrive immediately.  The confrontation between the soldiers (who
are more numerous than the settlers) and the settlers reminds us of
boys in school wrestling during recess.  When we returned from
Beit Iba about an hour later we see that the army “wasn’t able”
to remove four settlers, and there are now at least 10, and the soldiers
are still busy miming removing them from the road.  A settler who
isn’t very young prances in front of a bus arriving from the direction
of Nablus, and I think about the unbearable ease with which the army
“dealt” with dozens of people who came to Na’alin this year to
pick olives.  The soldiers didn’t hesitate to employ force against
the olive pickers (who had coordinated their activity with the army
and received its permission) the same techniques and tools they use
against demonstrators.  Dozens of young men and women who became
fed up waiting for the taxis that can’t get through to Beit Iba because
they’re stuck at one or more of the roadblocks in the area are walking
along the road, having decided to go on foot from Beit Iba to Tulkarm
or one of the villages nearby.

17:00  Beit Iba checkpoint. 
Almost no pedestrians.  A., the DCO representative, tells us that
the checkpoint was closed for two hours (14:00-16:00), delaying about
1,500 people (most of them students returning home at the end of the
week).  Two volunteers from the churches’ umbrella organization
we meet confirm the facts.  They add that people weren’t allowed
to sit on the ground, and were forced to stand the entire two hours. 
A. tells us about changes expected at the checkpoints and the anticipated
closing of the Beit Iba checkpoint.

We don’t stay long, since
the checkpoint is empty.  We continue to Anabta and pass an additional
roadblock, at the Jit junction.