EU Envoys Boycott Tour of Crossing at Qalandiyah

The representatives of the European Union and other diplomats boycotted a tour last Monday - sponsored by the West Bank Civil Administration - of the new Qalandiyah crossing for pedestrians. A diplomatic source told Haaretz they refused the invitation to tour the facility, which opened the next day, because it is located in the heart of occupied territory.

Israel sees the crossing as a border terminal between it and the West Bank, similar to a number of other terminals, for example the Erez crossing in the Gaza Strip. However, the Qalandiyah crossing is distant from the Green Line (pre-1967 border) and is surrounded by Palestinian neighborhoods and villages.

The diplomatic source said the decision not to take part in the tour was made before a request from the Palestinian Authority's Foreign Ministry asked the diplomats in East Jerusalem and Ramallah not to take part, and was independent of that request.

Haaretz has learned that the security officer of the American Consulate did take the tour, along with the No. 3 of the Australian mission, and so did representatives of two American aid organizations and an American commercial representative.

The opening of crossing's lanes for vehicles has been postponed for a few weeks.

The pedestrian component consists of a roofed waiting area, five roofed lanes leading up to a number of iron turnstiles, and an electromagnetic gate with X-ray equipment to check belongings and coats. Soldiers in three closed buildings between the lanes examine the identity cards of those crossing. A pedestrian who sets off a buzzer is taken to a side room to be searched.

Yesterday it appeared that crossing, including waiting time, took from half an hour to 40 minutes, a figure confirmed by conversations with pedestrians using the crossing.

Two special gates are for the passage of wheelchair users and baby carriages. Intercoms at the special gates allow those passing through it to communicate with soldiers in the control room, who can see them on camera. A number of other cameras have been installed along the lanes. Soldiers in the control room operate the other gates in keeping with the number of people waiting to have their belongings X-rayed.

Of the five lanes on the south side of the crossing toward Jerusalem, one is reserved for school children in the morning.

Every pedestrian crossing into Israel passes four to six turnstiles; the facility has a total of 21 turnstiles.

The pedestrian crossing is surrounded by a concrete portion of the separation fence, which was built on the west and south of Qalandiyah, and crosses the main street of the village of A-Ram, whose western part was taken over by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, as was Qalandiyah.

The middle area of the facility is surrounded by a chain-link fence and the lanes themselves are surrounded by iron fences, which also separate them from the waiting area.

West Bank residents were allowed to use the crossing for the first time yesterday, after it was closed to all but holders of Jerusalem residency documents following the terror attack in Netanya at the beginning of the month.

Many of those using the crossing are residents of the villages annexed to the Jerusalem municipal area following the 1967 war, who work, study, or have family in Ramallah.

Sources in the Israel Defense Forces said that the road north of the crossing, when completed, would allow West Bank residents to travel to other areas of the West Bank without having to cross at Qalandiyah. Gradually, after the completion of the separation fence around Jerusalem, the Qalandiyah crossing will be used mainly for those holding Jerusalem identity cards or entry permits into Israel. The Civil Administration said that a member of its liaison staff would be present at the crossing to issue permits and magnetic cards to area residents.