Beit Iba, Jit, Thu 11.12.08, Afternoon
Beit Iba:Today was the last day of the easing of restrictions for the Palestinians that were set up in honor of the Holiday of the Sacrifice which is the second biggest holiday for Muslims after Ramadan. The holiday was over on Wednesday but many Palestinians are making Thursday a "bridge" between the holiday and the Islamic Sabbath which is Friday. As a result there weren't students who were returning from the University or people returning from work but many families going back and forth for holiday visits.
The most significant reduction of restrictions for the Palestinians was the free movement moving into Nablus. Pedestrians and cars were not checked. Drivers did not need a permit for entering Nablus. There was a constant flow of vehicles into Nablus . There was a back up of traffic for 15 minutes around 16:10 when the traffic leaving Nablus blocked the entrance into Nablus so that the vehicles driving into Nablus had to wait until the block was cleared. Many of the drivers did not know what to do when they got close to the checking booth at the entrance to Nablus and saw it wasn't manned. If this happens on a usual day they have to wait until a soldier appears and if they don't, they are in big trouble. Some waited as usual until a fellow driver told them to advance, some slowly drove closer trying to catch the eye of a soldier, some slowed down and beeped. The soldiers didn't make any effort to wave them on. They were busy trying to handle the vehicles leaving Nablus.
Those leaving Nablus from outside villages did not need permits. Their IDs and occasionally the vehicle itself were checked. Nablus drivers did need permits for their vehicles. As a result those drivers who were turned back were Nablus residents who did not have permits. This was sad to see. They were usually cars or vans filled with parents and children all dressed up on their way to visit family. They had waited on line for at least 40 minutes and were then ordered to turn around and go back.
During our shift there were always at least 40 vehicles in sight coming from Nablus and more beyond our
view. There were 2 lines of traffic. Usually one of the lanes is for humanitarian vehicles but today they both appeared to be for regular traffic. Getting an accurate count of time was difficult because the lines of vehicles leaving Nablus extended way beyond our vision. However, from where I saw them, which was not at the end of the line I clocked the wait from 30 to 35 minutes. Each vehicle took from 30 seconds to a minute and a half to be checked once at the checking booth. . Since I could not see the last vehicle in line one can assume the wait was longer then what I recorded.
There was some confusion over Nablus residents needing permits because there is a new ruling that isn't yet in effect but which has been announced on the Palestinian radios and TVs which states that Nablus residents over 50 can drive their vehicles without permits. There was one incident where a van filled with a large family was told to turn around. After the driver did the U turn to head back to Nablus he stopped on the side. He sent some of his children off running toward Deir Sharaf and they came back a few minutes later with a man in his 70's who had all kinds of permits and documents in his hand. The man tried to talk to the soldier but it did no good. The impression I got was that it was the older man's vehicle. In another example, there was a tiny car with a mother, father and three children . The father was 49 and worked for the Civil Administration of Judea and Shamron and claimed that he usually is allowed to pass. The soldier listened to him, looked through all his papers, and made some phone calls but to no avail, the family was sent back to Nablus. .
There were the usual inconsistencies of who was checked and who was not. Although there were only 6 or 7 young men in line at a time behind the turnstiles, it took 10 or 11 minutes for the last one to go through. This is almost 2 minutes per person. Those on the sideline that are women and older men had their IDs checked and their bags checked as well. At the same time buses and cars were let through with nothing being checked other then the driver's ID and an occasional trunk and this was done in usually less then a minute.
There were 2 detainees when we arrived. The commanding officer told us they were security detainees and
had been waiting since14:50. When we called the army hotline about the detainees they told us the soldiers at Beit Iba claimed there were no detainees being kept at the CP. One was released at 16:15 but the second one was still there when we left at 16:40.
Jit: When we passed Jit on the way to Beit Iba at 15:10 there was a policeman and his vehicle and one soldier
who were watching the traffic. It appeared they were looking for traffic violations and were not there for security reasons. At 16:50 the Jit CP was not manned at all.