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Nablus: Misery at Checkpoints

July 12th, 2007. Nablus in the West Bank is home to approximately 250.000 people, and with its university and central location as a major commercial and educational focal point, it has also been a place which attracts workers and students from other villages and cities in the area. Nablus is surrounded by 35 villages in addition to illegal Israeli settlements such as Itamar, Berakha,and Alon Moreh, and Yitzhar.

The roads in and out of Nablus are controlled by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), and they control the thorough-fares in and out of the city, thus stopping the entry and exit of every one of the West
Bank residents approaching the city. The Checkpoints of Huwwarra leading southward, Beit Iba to the
northeast, and Badan to the east are all used as means of collective punishment. The Badan checkpoint especially, has made itself famous for the arrogance and harsh behavior with which the IOF meet the Palestinian population. Long delays, often for hours on end in excruciatingly hot temperatures, without any possibility of getting away, turning back, or finding shade.

On the 12th of July, two ISM-teams approached the checkpoints of Huwwarra and Badan to monitor the actions of the soldiers, report any violations of human rights, and assist Palestinians approaching the
checkpoints. At 7.30 the Badan checkpoint was in reality completely closed, and 10 minutes later the checkpoint suddenly opened up, thus slowly allowing Palestinian cars to go through the checkpoints manned by the IOF. The ISM-team observed and intervened when the IOF forced 4 of the Palestinian men waiting by the checkpoint to carry large boulders in order to further fortify the checkpoint, and prevent cars from approaching the soldiers from more than one lane.

The soldiers did not allow for anyone to pass the checkpoint by foot which created a lot of trouble for the people that came by foot and for workers and students that had to wait next to cars already filled with people. Women and children had to stay under the hot sun for hours and many had to wait more than 3 hours to pass. One of the Palestinian women, Huda, waited in the sun with her five children, the oldest being 9 years old and the youngest girl, an infant of 7 months. Around 08.00 am approximately 50 cars were waiting on each side of the checkpoint and many more Palestinians were standing beside the cars,
hoping to get the chance to lay out their reasons for passing to the arrogant and dazed soldiers. At around 08.30 am a bus arrived and all the men, around 20 had to get out and line up beside the bus, facing the valley below, with their backs to the road. A while later women and children were forced out as well, and all of their luggage was searched. Two of the men in the line were taken aside and had to sit down in the scorching sun. The detained men were handcuffed and blindfolded, one of them had to put his own T-shirt over his head, while the other young man was blindfolded with a piece of cloth. The plastic handcuffs that the soldiers used were very tight, and the soldiers refused to loosen up, even after complaints and requests. After fifteen minutes one of the two detainees was released and could
return to the bus. After standing outside in the heat for 40 minutes, the remaining men could get back to the bus. However one exhausted man was taken to a metal booth and was made to sit on a boulder in a very uncomfortable position.

Misery part 1

The ISM-team managed to approach the man, and had him whisper his name and ID-number so that steps could be taken to secure his identity and prevent him from “dissapearing” into the Occupation Forces administration. We also made sure to get the phone number of his parents, and put Machsom Watch and Hamoked in touch with the DCO. It was now clear that the young man would not be released within the near future. The soldiers claimed his was one of the wanted men on their list containing 167 numbers. Each number is the last four numbers in a Palestinian ID-number and everyone on that list is wanted and to be arrested.

Misery part 1

Time passed and the heat and position weakened the man and he was barely conscious at some points. The activists were allowed to give him water, but no food and absolutely not talk to him. After nearly 2 and a half hour in detention his condition was just getting worse, but the soldiers kept repeating that this was a dangerous man and not the 18 year old student that he really is, and refused to do something about the situation. When almost 4 hours had passed and the soldiers started to become disturbed by the international presence and the repeated reminders of what human rights violations they committed, the internationals had to leave in order not to escalate the violence. An hour after that, the man was taken away, still under arrest.