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EAPPI Reports from El-Nu'eman

(EAPPI Stands for Ecumenical Accompanier Programme in Palestine and Israel)

We arrived to the gap in the fence between Nu’aman and Al Has around 3.30 pm on Thursday, 30th of March 2006. The first half hour or so, nobody seemed to want to pass so everything was quiet. Shortly before 4pm a group of several men arrived, they crossed the street coming from Nu’aman to Al Has and went up the hills on the Al Has side, but then a border police car arrived, saw them and went to the Al Has side. 5 or 6 of them were stopped, the police men made them go up to the road again and wait there, after having taken their IDs. Another group of men tried to cross the street at around 4.20 pm, they were also stopped and made to wait together with the other group, more men came around 4.30 pm and some more people after that. Altogether it was a group of about 45 men in the end. Few people also managed to run over the street without being detained, but most of them were stopped. There were at some stage 2 border police cars and 1 army jeep, moving around a lot, but finally one border police car and the three police men in it seemed to take responsibility.

We at the beginning stood at some distance, and then slowly approached the group of detained men. At 4.30 we asked one of the police men for how long they would keep the people and what was happening, and he said they were just there, because they were waiting for a taxi ride (!). We think that it was around 6pm (really a guess) that we approached the police men in the car for the first time to ask them how long this would take and why they did not release the people. He said he had to write a report and the reason for not releasing part of the people was that then he would have to put all these different release times in the report. The detained men said they were mostly from Al Has, but also some from Bethlehem and other places. The men were called one by one to the police car, but very slowly and with lengthy breaks in between. After this, they were not given their IDs, but had to go back to the group. During all this time only one man got released who had been among the first group of detainees, and 2 others who apparently did not have to hand their IDs to the soldiers managed to run away. At around 6.45 we decided to talk again to the police men. They said they did not really have to answer our questions, but they thought it would take until 9pm until they were done. They also claimed that it was legal for them to keep the people up to 6 hours and that they had permission from their officer to do so. After this we called Tamar from Machsom Watch. We had the feeling that they proceeded a little quicker after our second intervention and Tamar’s, but this is hard to measure. At some stage, the police men told us to stand in a place further away from the Palestinians so that we could not talk to them any longer. It took until 8.15pm that all the IDs were handed back and people could go home. Most of them had been there four hours or close to it by then. It was quite cold, with a chilly wind blowing. The police men were according to our impression not unfriendly, they gave the people water, but everything took just a long time.

The information above is based on the notes that we took while we where there this night.

We also asked two of the Palestinian men whether they went there every day and they said yes. They also claimed it took often that long, sometimes 6 hours, but we are not sure how reliable that information is or whether they just took an opportunity to complain. One of the men also said that the police this time was worse than other days. The last two Thursday afternoons we were present, and the border police did not detain people quite that long, releasing them in less than two hours, and sometimes even after 30 min or so.

Christiane Gerstetter and Ellen Torjussen
Participating in Ecumenical Accompanier Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), and based in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Monday April 3rd 2006 3-6pm David Mowat, David Le Grand 

Border police present on arrival, called us over for id check, but gave us no hassle. A few workers started crossing carefully at about 3.30pm and police left about 4pm. Several services and private cars drove into Nu’uaman. Soon after the machines digging the embankment and laying out a hard surface stopped work and trundled into the compound. More workers crossed, often running, to Al Khas. About 40 had crossed and flow of people seemed to be down to a trickle when 1 man told us the problem was up above, in Al Nu’uaman where the police had arrested someone/more than one. We walked up at 4.20, through the whole village, up onto the ridge overlooking Har Homa where we saw workers walking in, presumably for the night shift, and heard lots of gun fire from the wooded hill next to it, which we guessed was a firing range. No sign of police or any problem. The problem in in Har Homa said one returning labourer. We walked back to Al Khas along the valley where there were still no border police and continued up into the village as many young people were curious about us and called us over. Several introductions with kids and adults followed which we thought was important given our high visibility and till now little explanation of our work. We were told about 1,000 people cross from Al Khas every day, and of those only about 100 have permits. A bus full, maybe 20, come especially from Hebron every day. They rise at 3am and the bus left at 6pm, giving us a lift home. Another man emphasised the problem is on Thursday afternoon when the labourers who’ve been sleeping over come home for the weekend.

Tuesday 4th of April , ca. 4.30pm to 6pm, Goran Buren and Christiane Gerstetter

We arrived at around 4.30pm at which time no border police car was visible down in the valley. After a short while we decided to go up into the village of Nu’aman. One border police car there, checking a car. We went on to visit S., who said she was doing fine and continuing her studies and would be in touch with Ta’ayush if trouble arose. On our way back, we saw the same car again, hooked up to a border police jeep on the road in the valley. As we could not follow on foot, we left. We saw nobody else being detained.

Thursday April 6th 2006, 5 – 6 pm, Goran Buren and Bettina Schucan

Because of “technical problems” on our side, we arrived late, at 5 pm. There was no border police, and we enjoyed the evening sun and the quiet atmosphere very much. Some people passed, but not as much as usually (perhaps of the late time). As no “security staff” turned up, we left at 6 pm. We hoped that things would keep such quiet from now on...

Monday April 10, 2006   David Mowat and Ellen Torjussen

When we arrived at 04:05 pm 15 men were already detained. There was one border police jeep, and about three border policemen, and also two or three guards from a private security company. The detainees were saying that they had been there for one hour.

At 04:15 pm one of the border police told us to go away from the detainees.

We tried to refuse, but they then took four of the men that we had been talking to, and brought them to the military jeep. They were keeping them so that we were not able to see them without moving from our positions. When we moved so that we could see what was going on, they then moved them to another side of the car. It was quite clear that they were playing with us. They were saying something to the men, but we did not understood/hear what it was. But the men were not allowed to talk to us after this.

We made several phone calls, to try to help the detainees, speaking to Ron, a PR officer, the international section and finally the Bethlehem IDF commander who rang his soldiers and insisted what we witnessed (see below) was a necessary part of interrogation. We also rang Neta of Machsom Watch and are sending her the photo (attached) to pass to her commander friend.

At 04:25 pm there where about 53 men detained.  After some minutes they started letting some people go. As far as we understood they were not forcing the detainees to sign any paper, they were just giving the IDs back. But at 04:35 pm there were still around 30 people there.

At this point there were both a border police jeep and a military truck (humvee). People continued to come, and even if they let some people go home, there were always between 20 and 30 people there until 05.20 pm. One of the border police was quite tough with the men. He was pointing at them with his gun, and they were forced to show their bellies. When we made it clear we were watching and taking pictures, he modified his behaviour.

At 05.20 pm Mowat came aware that the same border police told some of the detainees to go some meters down the hill, beside the place that they had been detained. When he went to see what happened, he saw that about 8 detainees had been forced to sit in a pipe/water drainage pipe. This was about 1.50 m in diameter. The border police was kneeling down outside, pointing his gun towards the men sitting in the pipe. When Torjussen arrived, she could also see some of the men still being forced to sit there. Mowat became very angry of the humiliation and yelled at the border police man. After that Mowat called different offices to complain of this humiliation.

At 05.35 pm the border police came over to us and handed over a mobile. He wanted us to talk to a man that obviously was in charge. We had to explain what happened. At this point it was still around 15 people detained. But at 05.40 pm all people were allowed to go home. At one point new, older border police arrived. Around 06:00 pm the border police left the place.

We then went up to Numan to see some people. We could then observe that one of the military trunks had put up a checkpoint in the upper part of Numan. Also a private security car passed us.

We left the Numan around 07:20 pm. The border police car had at this point left also upper Numan.

Number of the border police plates: 42079 and 22428

 Thursday, 13th of April, 4pm until around 5pm, Christiane Gerstetter

 At 2.45 pm I got a phone call from Y. from Nu’aman saying that two taxis with people from Nu’aman had been detained and brought to Checkpoint 300. I asked two of my colleagues to go there, which they did. They found the people at Gilo checkpoint. One soldier informed them, that the people had not done anything illegal and would probably be released soon. This indeed happened around 4.30pm. It seems that the taxis drivers, Bethlehem residents, will face some problems, but not the Nu’aman people, but this is not very clear.

 In Nu’aman valley itself, everything rather quiet. Few people passed, probably because of Pessach. The border police men checked my passport and EAPPI ID, but seemed to behave friendly towards the people crossing. Therefore I left rather soon. 

 Nu’aman, 11th of May, Ellen Torjussen and Christiane Gerstetter

 We arrived to the fence between Nu’aman at 15.45. Barbed wired has been put there. Only one gap remains, where pedestrians and cars can pass. A border police car was present when we arrived a group of 9 men was already detained. They sat in the sun which was hot. Shortly after, another of group around 35-40 men arrived, was also detained and the men also had to sit in the sun. After about half an hour, we spoke to the border police to see how long it would take, but did not would give as an answer. After this we talked to the waiting men, but were stopped by the officer in charge who told us that we were not allowed to be here close to the office, but he would still let us be here. If we wanted to talk to the men, however, it could only be to one person at a time not to the entire group. We asked him again, how long it would take, but he said they were police people (two cars by then) and many people waiting to it would take time.

 The police people did not give the Palestinian men water, even though the men asked for it, so we shared our water with them.

 At 16.37 a man in a civilian car with yellow number plate 8282635 started filming or photographing us, while another man in the car watched. The car was not marked in any way as security.

At 5pm the detained men signalled to us that they wanted to speak to us again, so we went over. They reported that one of the police men had thrown garbage in between them. One of the men also said that he had asked for water and got the answer that he could drink his “pipi”. They also said the officer had told them they had to ask permission for everything – to sit, to smoke etc. We were again stopped by a border police person from talking to them further. Shortly after, B’Tselem staff, working on a report on illegal workers, arrived to the scene and started filming.

Altogether, there was a lot of tension with people approaching the soldiers and being ordered back again, plus it was really hot. A taxi that was waiting for the men was told to leave the scene. Until 17:30 only 3-4 people of the group waiting had been released and it took until 19:10, thus longer than 3 hours, until all the men of this group had gone. They had to sign papers.

At 18:18 a new group of 7 men arrived. They also had to wait until 19:10, even though it seemed that the police did not check their IDs (in which case making them wait was just a completely unnecessary harassment).

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