Starting in July, East Jerusalem Palestinians will be denied freedom of movement into Ramallah, Binyamin region brigade commander Col. Mickey Edelstein has confirmed to Machsom Watch, a voluntary women's group that monitors checkpoints.
By then, the separation wall in the area, a series of tall cement plates that he calls a "barrier," will be completed. The Qalandiya checkpoint will be moved off the Jerusalem-Ramallah road and upgraded into a terminal.
Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who want to go to Ramallah will have to request to do so at the checkpoint, he explained. Machsom Watch says its members have been told that the brigade scheduled a discussion this week on the arrangements for passage in the coming period, until the "barrier" is completed.
The Machsom Watch meeting with Edelstein took place after a change was noticed in the policies employed by soldiers at the checkpoint regarding the movement of East Jerusalemite Palestinians. For the first time since the Qalandiya checkpoint went up in December 2001, the soldiers stopped letting hundreds of Palestinians with blue ID cards (signifying their legal residence in Israel) go through the checkpoint in their cars.
Some people were told that they were forbidden to do so because their ID cards did not specify that they resided in Kafr Akab, Samir Amis or the village of Qalandiya, neighborhoods and villages annexed to Jerusalem's municipal area in 1967, but Qalandiya checkpoint is south of those places. Others were told they could not pass because the card said it was issued in "Jerusalem" and not "East Jerusalem." Some said they were not allowed through, but that relatives or neighbors, with the exact same details in their ID cards, were allowed through.
However, pedestrians were not prevented from passing through the checkpoint on their way to Ramallah. Usually, the soldiers do not examine the documents of those heading north, toward Ramallah, only those heading south, into Jerusalem.
The YNet site, which reported on January 13 about how thousands of people were being denied entry to the West Bank, also reported that the IDF said it was a mistake made by a group of new reservists manning the checkpoint, who did not know that an order issued at the start of the intifada preventing Israelis from entering Area A does not cover Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. But in response to a question from Haaretz, the IDF Spokesman said on January 18 that the soldiers' behavior at the checkpoint was in accordance with the order.
Hadash MK Ahmed Tibi, who tried to find out the reason for the change, also encountered contradictory explanations. He said that he was first told by the Central Command that there are no new orders. On the day YNet published its report, East Jerusalemites were still not allowed to pass through the checkpoint in their cars. Tibi called the command to ask about the rule and was told they were certain there was no problem to get through. But after further clarification, someone in the command mentioned the general's original order banning Israelis from Palestinian-controlled Area A. Tibi said that the Palestinians were residents, not citizens, and his interlocutor, he says, answered - after further clarification - that "the rules for Israeli citizens cover the Jerusalem residents, who have blue ID cards."
Last week, the soldiers were allowing East Jerusalemites to get through the checkpoint in their cars. According to Machsom Watch activists, they understood from Edelstein that meanwhile the army would be allowing travelers through, until the barrier is completed and the checkpoint is moved to its permanent place.
The IDF Spokesman confirmed that with the end of "the construction of the security fence in the Jerusalem area, slated for July 2005, the Qalandiya checkpoint will undergo changes and improvements ... holders of Israeli ID cards who want to go through the checkpoint will be required to have permits to enter Area A ... Residents of Samir Amis, Kafr Akab and Ein Umm a Srait, whose residents have Israeli ID cards, will be allowed to reach their homes beyond the checkpoint without the need for permits to enter Area A."
The spokesman did not refer to the fact that so far the order regarding entry to Ramallah has not been applied to Palestinians from East Jerusalem. According to the spokesman, residents of East Jerusalem with blue ID cards "who want to enter Ramallah will be required to have permits to enter Area A, like all Israeli citizens." Nowadays, if an Israeli wants to enter Area A, he must contact the public ombudsman in the central command.
The Qalandiya checkpoint is not on the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank, but inside the West Bank on the Jerusalem-Ramallah road, in a narrow strip north of Jerusalem that was annexed to Israel in 1967.
The neighborhood of A Ram, south of the checkpoint and east of the road, is in the West Bank, as are the villages to the west - Bir Naballah, Jib, Biddu and other villages. The Atarot industrial zone, also west of the road, was annexed to Israel.
North of the checkpoint, the road to Ramallah is Israeli territory, as are those parts of the Qalandiya village west of the road and some of the houses in the Qalandiya refugee camp, east of the road. So are the villages/neighborhoods of Samir Amis, Kafr Akab, and Ein Umm a Srait, whose residents pay city taxes to Jerusalem and theoretically are supposed to get services from Jerusalem.
The barrier now cuts the A Ram-Qalandiya road, and surrounds all of Qalandiya. A series of tunnels are supposed to be built to serve the villagers in the area who want to reach Qalandiya.
Israelis and settlers will take a raised highway that is meant to connect the settlements of Givat Ze'ev, which is west of Ramallah, to the settlements to the east of the Palestinian city, such as Geva Binyamin, Beit El, Ofra and Ma'aleh Adumim.
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