by ISM Nablus, 5th November
Yesterday, the checkpoint known to Nablusians as “Sabatash” was closed to everyone trying to pass it in both directions. Located at a narrow bend in the road, flanked by a steep mountainous slope and a watchtower overlooking an olive grove valley running beside a military road, this checkpoint is notorious for its violent and trigger-happy soldiers. Every day, this checkpoint denies people living north of Nablus city their freedom of movement, as well as preventing the transport of such diverse but equally essential goods as sewage pipes and olive oil to the villages of Asira Ash-Shamalia, An-Naqura and Sebastiya.
By midday, the line of buses, trucks and private cars was already several hundred meters long. The Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint were forcing the young men to get out of their vehicles and lift up their shirts so as to prove that they were not wearing explosive belts around their waists. According to eyewitness reports, 24-year old Haythem Yaseen refused to submit to this humiliating procedure and began to argue with one of the soldiers. In front of the line of waiting students, farmers and workers, the soldier then shot Haythem in the leg with live ammunition as punishment.
“He is a beautiful, gentle man”, said one of Haythem’s fellow students, 22-year old Yusef Hashaka. “He was only standing up for himself and for us. And then they shot him.” Shortly after sustaining his injury, Haythem was abducted by Israeli forces and taken to an Israeli hospital for treatment.
At half past eight, the line of stationary vehicles had grown even longer and most of the male passengers were standing on the verge of the road smoking or jumping up and down in an attempt to keep warm. The soldiers at the checkpoint were saying that their only job was to make sure that the checkpoint would close at eight o’clock and that any people who were still waiting on the Nablus side would have to return to the city, despite the fact that the checkpoint had in practice been closed since two o’clock in the afternoon.
The people, furious at the situation and without money for taxis or anywhere to sleep over in the city, refused to move and stood behind the razor-wire rolled over both car lanes, waiting for a second decision. By this time, most of them had been waiting for over six hours in the cold and rain. After some negotiation on the part of international human rights workers, women, elderly men and children were allowed to pass.
By ten o’clock in the evening, there were about 150 young men left on the Nablus side of the checkpoint. The soldiers were unusually nervous and jumpy throughout the evening, pointing their guns at and scanning their strobe light across the crowd. After further negotiation, they finally agreed to let the young men through in two buses. As the men finally, after eight hours of delay, got into the buses and waved goodbye, Palestinian sources reported that there were large numbers of Israeli special forces and soldiers in the city which would have made it impossible for the men to return to Nablus.
Denied passage through the checkpoint to Asira Ash-Shamalia, the group of human rights workers took refuge on the porch of a nearby mosque until able to return to the city safely. Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian resistance fighters took place throughout the Old City for several hours but no one was injured. Two Palestinian men were abducted and are currently being held in an unknown location.
For more information contact ISM Nablus: 059 907 6568