IDF Said Changing Its Checkpoint Policy

More and more Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who return home from the Bethlehem and southern West Bank area through the so-called "Container" checkpoint east of Abu Dis are being called in for questioning by police for violating a military order, according to MachsomWatch, a human rights organization that monitors Israel Defense Forces checkpoints.

MachsomWatch puts down the change in the IDF's policy at the checkpoint to the preparations ahead of completing the construction of the separation fence in the Jerusalem area.

Meanwhile, Palestinians have noticed a second phenomenon pointing to preparations ahead of completing the barrier's construction: At the Qalandiyah checkpoint, soldiers and employees of a private company are making note of and counting every East Jerusalem resident who passes through the security check. Palestinian sources have also reported that the same practice is in effect at the Atarot checkpoint, west of Qalandiyah.

In recent weeks, Border Police at the "Container" checkpoint have either barred passage to East Jerusalem residents heading to Bethlehem, or have warned them that on their return, they will be summoned for questioning.

A few days ago, for example, an East Jerusalem family travelling to a wedding in Bethlehem was prevented from doing so.

The "Container" checkpoint is on the only access route available to Palestinians, linking the southern and northern sections of the West Bank.

In principle, the military order issued at the beginning of the current intifada and banning Israeli citizens from entering Area A applies also to Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Under the order, entry into Area A requires a special permit.

Until now, however, the order has not been applied in the case of East Jerusalem residents.

The situation will change on the completion of the wall and fence in the Jerusalem area, and the installation of the 11 gates and crossing points. Haaretz learned some two months ago that as of July 2005, East Jerusalem residents will be allowed access to the Ramallah area only with special permits. Military sources have confirmed that as of July, the military order will be enforced at all checkpoints.

Contrary to the MachsomWatch findings, the spokesman for the Judea and Samaria Police said that only Israeli citizens, and not residents of East Jerusalem, are being summoned for questioning after entering Area A.