by Mary Baxter, May 11th 2006
When razor wire was placed across the entrance to the track leading to the Al Azzeh homes in December 2005, it was done at the instigation of Israeli settlers from Tel Rumeida settlement.
The children of the Al Azzeh family need to pass it in order to get to school every day. The razor wire has been placed in a way that an adult and some teenagers could open it. An elderly person can not open it nor could the younger children. The wire was coiled, with coils of larger than 1 metre diameter and opened like a very wobbly gate. Younger children were dependent upon an Israeli soldier being helpful.
When the family appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court, the court issued an order that they should be allowed to access their home freely. But the soldiers were not briefed as to the court order that the family could pass and the Tel Rumeida settlement women would come out and tell the soldiers that the children were not allowed to pass. This often causes problems when children came home from school.
In February, someone (settler or soldier) placed a heavy sandbag on the wire near the opening. This made the wire too heavy for Janette or even a soldier to open up. So, a soldier helped tread down the wire and the children were helped across it. This was very difficult for the younger children.
On one occasion, a seven year old girl was by herself and had trouble crossing the wire. The soldier on duty would not help so a seventy-five year old ISM volunteer tried to help. The volunteers clothing got caught on the wire and she fell over, luckily not on to the wire. The soldier present did nothing. On some occasions, a helpful soldier held down the wire with his foot while the children passed.
In March, someone (soldier or settler) adjusted the razor wire so that the coils were of full height. This meant that the children had to go round the top of the wire on a narrow steep path which was difficult for the older girls with schoolbags on their backs. The younger children always needed help. Then, towards the end of Passover, a soldier pushed the wire so that the narrow path became extremely narrow. The older girls needed help and the younger children could only pass if an adult met them on the other side of the wire.
Last week, a helpful soldier managed to help fix the wire so that it could be opened at another place. The older girls were able to open it like a gate again. But then someone (settler or soldier) put a sandbag at that place, making the wire too heavy to lift open.
Another soldier tore the sandbag so that the sand fell out and no longer weighed the wire of the opening down.
Today, the older girls were able to open the wire. This was necessary because the soldier outside the settlement told ISM volunteers that he would not help the children. One of the soldiers on duty near the ISM apartment referred to Palestinians as “animals” when he detained them for no reason for 45 minutes.
At times, the soldier on duty refuses to believe that the court order exists. He will point to the wire and say that it would not be there if the children were meant to pass. It is not surprising that he would think this. It is hard to believe that children are expected to pass razor wire.
On one occasion recently, the children were held up by a soldier for an hour until the police came and said that they could pass. The same soldier aged 19 years was standing over a 14 year old girl, very close, trying to force her away.