Here is the report by Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch on the passage of Palestinians from the West Bank through the major Qalandia checkpoint to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on the first Friday of Ramadan:
Qalandia, 5.9.08 – Hours: 9:30-13:00
“JERUSALEM IS CLOSED ON THE POLITICAL ASPECT AND OPEN ON THE RELIGIOUS ONE. WE DON’T INTEND ON BUILDING A BERLIN WALL IN THE HEART OF JERUSALEM, AND WE DON’T INTEND ON DENYING THE FREEDOM OF PRAYER… ” From an interview with Shimon Peres on July 1994.
“The orders concerning the passage were strictly kept:
Only women over 45 years all and men over 50 that aren’t refused passage by the GSS were permitted to pass for the prayers.
“As the media had published and as Ruti reported, military forces were at every junction around the ancient city.
“By the checkpoint were police forces, BP [Border Police] and soldiers from the special patrol unit (YASAM) and vehicles weren’t allowed to come near the checkpoint.
At Qalandia checkpoint there were two separate lanes: women were on the eastern side and men at the usual cage-like corridors. There were many police men who spoke Arabic and guided the passers.
It was evident all around the place that there were more women then men.
The first screening of those permitted passage was preformed at the northern square and the parking lot was used as a sterile zone.
“11:00 – The soldiers moved back and stood behind the police checkpoint, by the new walls that separate the parking lot. Snipers were at their positions with their rifles aimed ready to fire. There was a notification that no one would pass any more. In spite of that they still allowed some people with blue IDs who fit the age barrier to pass to Jerusalem.
On the other side of the fences were a couple of hundred people who weren’t permitted to pass. The soldiers got ready for the ‘riots’ to begin, smoke and stun grenades were handed out as well as rubber bullets and tear gas. It was apparent that the soldiers were more then happy to start their fire.
“11:15 – The passage was closed.
– A surgeon from Nablus who was in his fifties asked an officer to allow him to get to the prayer, he received a rude replay: ‘No one is allowed to pass now, wait patiently two or three hours, don’t you have any patience at all?’ – the doctor was patient, he had been so for over forty one years. He kept standing their under the blazing sun hoping that the gates of prayer might just open.
– Someone who worked at Hevree Kadish and had papers to prove it said that he had to go to a funeral at the cemetery at Givat Shaul. The answer he got was: ‘No one dies today and there are no funerals!…’
– A group of women were waving their green IDs and got one of the officers extremely mad, he spotted one of them and screamed at her: ‘Shut up!’
– A BP officer was tiered of telling people that they can’t pass so he started cursing, and while he was pointing at his own head he asked: ‘What the hell do you have in their instead of brains?’
“12:00 – Stones were beginning to be thrown towards the soldiers, who for starters began by throwing stun grenades and after that kept throwing and firing what ever was in their reach. Smoke rose above the checkpoint.
One of the soldiers made his hands into fists and like a child he demanded that he get what he wanted, he was yelling to his mates: ‘Give me the grenades, give me the grenades…’ – so they gave them to him. He threw them and relaxed. It was as Celine wrote in Journey to the End of the Night, that is the nature of all soldiers, when they aren’t busy killing they behave like children…
The dense smell of tear gas filled the air and burned the throat and eyes. A Palestinian got hit in his head and was taken to an ambulance that was waiting by the wall, he got treatment.
A fifteen year old boy got wounded in his neck and his shirt was scorched, he too was treated by the medical crew from Ramallah.
“A young frustrated man who had just been released from the Israeli prison after 13 years, got his anger out on us, he yelled that he was once a great believer in co-existence and in ending the conflict peacefully but now doesn’t believe these slogans and he doesn’t see how there could be any other option for him but to become a Shahid. Finally he pointed at me and side: ‘Anyway, you are from the GSS’.
“On the way back we heard on the 14:00 new flash that ‘military forces in Qalandia had scattered a demonstration of 300 Palestinians, no one was injured’.
“When the IDF spokesman reports that no one was injured, is it to say that none of his men were injured? Don’t they count the injured Palestinians as well?”
Report compiled by Tamar Fleishman of Machsom Watch – Photos by Tamar Fleishman