Wall Gates, Gate Incidents & Permits in Azzun Atma
Wall Gates, Gate Incidents & Permits in Azzun Atma, Habla and Mas'ha
The wall is creating unbearable pressure for Palestinian people. Lack of freedom of movement, already caused by the checkpoints and roadblocks of the Israeli Military Occupation, has now been notched up one more level on a torturous scale. The wall is imprisoning people in towns and villages and enabling the wholesale takeover by Israel of the agricultural lands of the Palestinians.
To give an example from a few of the villages where IWPS works, let us consider some of the problems facing the families and farmers in the villages just a little west of Hares, where we live and work.
All the land, 15,000 dunums (4 dunums to the acre) in the three villages of Sannirya, Azzun Atma, and Beit Amin belongs to Sannirya, which is considered the mother village.
There are around 6,000 inhabitants in all the three villages. Almost all the inhabitants can be traced back to one family and are now distributed throughout these three villages. Lack of access through wall gates causes many problems, not just access to farmland but also for family events and for keeping up normal relationships.
Land, infrastructure, services and support were shared. 500 dunums of olive trees and vegetable fields have now been destroyed for the construction of the wall and 7,000 dunums are left on the other side of the wall.
One square kilometer (10,000 dunams) of farmland in this area of the West Bank used to produce income of about US$900,000, more than twice the income from a similar area in the rest of the West Bank. Azzun Atma was known as the village that yielded the highest produce per dunum of land in the Occupied West Bank, and, as a result, the village was largely dependent upon its agricultural industry. Prior to September 2000, ten trucks of produce left the village daily: nine went to cities in the West Bank and one truck exported produce to Israel.
Today, the residents need permits to live on their own land. Only those with Azzun Atma as as their address on their ID cards are allowed to enter.
Village of Azzun Atma
Azzun Atma is separated from the other two villages by the wall, which has 4 gates in it. Three gates are permanently closed for the local population, but used by the army to enter the village areas. The fourth gate of Azzun Atma was finished and closed on the 30th of October 2003. It is the only gate for farmers from Sannirya, Beit Amin, Kufr Thult and Mas'ha to enter their fields on the western part of the wall. The next gates are Hable to the north and Mas'ha to the south.
The gate to Azzun Atma, No. 48, is open from 6 am till 7 pm. The gate is similar to a checkpoint and permanently manned with soldiers, who change shift every 24 hours. Daily access to the lands which contain greenhouses and vegetable fields is necessary to water and take care of the plants.
The main victims of the wall gate are farmers, pupils, teachers and sick people.
Due to the wall and the checkpoint at the gate, the villagers face huge problems like long waiting hours at the gate, bad treatment and harassment by the soldiers, long explanations that have to be given to the soldiers to be let in or out, and the arbitrary closing of the gates. For instance, during the Jewish Purim feast, the gate was completely closed for everybody.
Men, in particular, are detained by the soldiers for hours. The soldiers sometimes become violent towards villagers.
Pupils and teachers from neighbouring villages are delayed or unable to access the school in Azzun Atma at all. Several school days have been cancelled this school term because the gate was closed.
Doctors are sometimes denied entry to the village through the gate, leading to severe medical problems. It is impossible for doctors to respond to emergencies in the late evening or night time when the gate is closed. A woman had to give birth at home recently, because the soldiers did not allow her to leave the village and see a doctor. Families cannot visit their relatives in Azzun Atma any more, because they now need a special permit.
Vegetables from Azzun Atma, which supplies the whole area, cannot be harvested. Even if produce is allowed out of the village, it is often so late that it rots on the waiting trucks.
A member of the village council says that he hears at least twice a week about a gate incident.
Habla, like other villages, has gates which are opened 3 times a day for short periods: 6.30 to 8 am, 12 am to 1 pm and 4 pm to 5 pm. The gate can only be used by farmers and those who want to go to Qalqilya. As in other places, the opening of the gate is inconsistent and gates can be arbitrarily closed earlier or opened later than the set times.
The main gate in Mas'ha village has been permanently closed since an anti-wall demonstration. The farmers' gate opens twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. If a farmer just wants to water his plants, a task of perhaps a couple of hours, he has to wait till the evening to be able to get back into his village.
Steps required in order to get a Wall Gate Permit
In any event, villagers cannot pass through a gate without applying beforehand at the Israeli Administration office for a permit. They have to obtain several documents: photocopy of identity card, land approval document of the Court in Salfit, Village Council confirmation that the land really belongs to them and is registered in their name, a letter from the Palestinian Court in Qalqiliya to prove that their land has not been sold, rented or mortgaged, new land ownership papers for 2004 from Qedumim (a local illegal Israeli settlement), and ensure consistency of spellings and names on the Land Registration Form as Israel controls the land documents. Under Jordanian control, land registration was registered in the name of the second grandfather, which often creates problems. Once all these documents have been obtained, villagers can then fill out the permit application.
The application takes 4 or 5 days of running around, paying money for transportation and for the various documents. The actual wall permit costs about NIS 40 and may only be valid for a month or two, there being no consistency on this. Not every farmer is able to obtain all these documents and find the money for transport. It also delays them from their work, which is so often disrupted anyway by the army. And all for a permit that may only last a month and which does not in any event provide a guarantee that the soldiers will allow them passage.
More people are needed to work on a specific piece of land than get permits, as the permits are usually issued to only one or two persons. The local farmers need all their family members to work the land and some families also need extra workers. A permit for only one person in a family is almost as useless as none. Another problem relates to specific key people - one farmer, for example, is responsible for the water pump in the whole area. If he does not get in through the wall gate then there is no water distributed to the other farmers. Water is essential for intensive cultivation.
Around 500 persons from Sanniriya and Beit Amin managed to get permits, but almost 4,000 people have to go to the land every day. Permits are regularly refused, if there is a problem with the land or the farmers' plans - for instance, the Israeli authorities may say they do not agree with fig trees being grown in a certain place because they want to be able to see straight through to the wall - or if a security issue comes up with your ID number.
As anyone with any imagination and empathy can understand, the problems of the wall and the wall gates is going to become bigger and bigger and already the villagers are feeling it is yet another way to try and pressure them to leave their villages and for the Israelis to confiscate more of their land.
Text by: Angie, Barbara and Karin.
Please see photos accompanying this report at http://www.womenspeacepalestine.org/iwpsreports.htm. Please also see our new reports on women's resistance to the Wall in Azzawiya and Mas'ha (www.womenspeacepalestine.org/wall_campaign.htm).
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