The following account of the obstruction of transportation routes in Azzun, Palestine, was filed by Scott Smith, a South African Ecumenical Accompanier based in Jayyous. The views expressed herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the SACC or the WCC. See below for more information on the EAPPI programme.
We heard about the curfew in Azzun from Leena, ISM, at about 11:00 on Tuesday, 4 March. While we were able to confirm some meetings, many contacts told us not to come through as they were trapped in their homes or offices due to the curfew imposed on the town.
Instead we decided to go with Abed on a small tour of the surrounding areas. This required us to travel through Azzun. As soon as we passed through the North Blockage we were stopped by soldiers and ordered to turn around. There were two jeeps, one from the Border Police, and the other from the army. One stopped to the left side of us and the other blocked our path. The soldiers were aggressive, talking to us through their loudspeakers. There were no cars or people on the streets. Shops were closed. We turned around and toured a different part of the West Bank.
On Wednesday, 5 March, we were able to travel through Azzun. We noticed the new earth mounds and had to take long detours in order to reach Qalqiliya. Despite the imposed curfew, shops were open; people and cars were in the streets in Azzun. As far as we know the curfew has not been lifted officially but the soldiers do not still seem to be enforcing it. The team observed an unusually large number of Border Police (BP) jeeps patrolling road 55. In the village of Mahattat Tahseen Mansur, one BP jeep was stationed at the entrance of the village.
The blockage of Azzun seems strategic for the Israeli Defense Force as the town is one of the main pass-through points for the Qalqiliya region. If Azzun is blocked or under curfew, it severely inhibits movement in the region, optimizing disruption of daily life.
Below are details of the blockages of which we are aware. We do not know if there is another blockage on the southern road to Kafr Thulth. See the attached Google map for the approximate placements of the earth mounds.
North Blockage 1: North road into Azzun. Obstacle in the form of cement blocks across the road. It is possible for cars and trucks to drive between the blocks.
North Blockage 2: The earth mound that has been there for some time.
West Blockage: We did not get very close to this new blockage and did not try to get around it due to the presence of soldiers on the other side.
South West Blockage: This was a new blockage. In the morning of 5 March it was not possible to get around it. We took a detour through the olive fields going west. On the way home that afternoon we found an alternative way around the earth mound but we could avoid going through the olive fields. This was by far the largest blockage we had seen.
Centre Blockage: In order to get around the earth mound people have to go into the surrounding residential areas to the east and then make their way west again through the southern part of Azzun.
Blockages in Al Funduq
In nearby al Funduq, there appeared to be three dirt mounds. Two were fresh and appeared to have been made within the last couple days. A third seemed to be older and was already partly demolished.
Small dirt roads had been made around the mounds, so all cars were able to pass. If not, the road 55 would be inaccessible for Palestinians.
The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) was launched in August 2002. Ecumenical accompaniers monitor and report violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, support acts of non-violent resistance alongside local Christian and Muslim Palestinians and Israeli peace activists, offer protection through non-violent presence, engage in public policy advocacy, and stand in solidarity with the churches and all those struggling against the occupation. The programme is coordinated by the World Council of Churches.
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in more than 120 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works co-operatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by General Secretary Samuel Kobia from the Methodist Church in Kenya.
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5 March 2008