Tear Gas used on Traffic Jam
All five checking stations were open when we arrived at 5:30 a.m. and the lines, which extended into the parking lot, were moving very slowly.
At 6:00 we phoned the DCO to recommend that a representative come out to open the Humanitarian Gate, where people had already been lined up for some time. An officer and soldier arrived about 10 minutes later, checked the permits, opened the gate, and did so again each time a number of people had gathered by it.
Meanwhile, between 6:00 and 6:07, we heard loud noises coming from outside the pedestrian checkpoint and soon discovered – through people entering the checkpoint – their source: Tear gas was being used to sort out the traffic jam (!), and pedestrians on their way to the checkpoint fell victim to the vapors. On our way out to witness this activity (which had come to an end), we met a charming young man employed by the Israeli Ministry of Transport whose job is to monitor the traffic through the pedestrian checkpoint and report on how long it takes to cross it. He explained that the tear gas was being fired by soldiers to deter traffic headed toward the vehicle checkpoint from blocking the opposite lane (see report of 8.11.16). We told him that MachsomWatch has been charting the time it takes to go through the checkpoint for years, and we are glad that the government of Israel has now joined us in this effort.
For example, at 6:50 the EAPPI activist who joined us this morning told us (after speaking to her colleague stationed at the exit) that it was taking people some 45 minutes to traverse the checkpoint. At this time (6:50), we began following a young man at the end of one of the lines and found that it took him 30 minutes to enter the checking station. Finally, at 7:20, we joined one of the lines (which were contained within the shed by then), and it took us 25 minutes to exit the checkpoint.