As part of an ongoing policy aimed at creating divisions within East Jerusalem and its residents, the Israeli authorities officially launched the operation of a so-called “terminal” checkpoint at the entrance of Shu’fat Refugee Camp, in East Jerusalem on 11 December. The new checkpoint, which replaces an existing one, imposes more stringent airport-style security checks effectively impeding the access of thousands of Palestinians to other parts of East Jerusalem.
This “upgraded” checkpoint particularly affects Shu’fat Refugee Camp and the surrounding neighbourhoods of Ras Khamis, Ras Shuhada and the town of ‘Anata. These areas are in most part located within the municipal boundary of Jerusalem with a majority of residents holding Jerusalem IDs, which should give them free access to the whole city.
More than 10,000 students from Shu’fat Refugee Camp, Ras Khamis, Ras Shuhada, and the town of ‘Anata are now forced to pass through the intensified security checking to reach their schools in East Jerusalem. Thousands of workers will also be affected by the unpredictable delays which vary according to the moods of the soldiers manning the new checkpoint. Critically, those people needing medical treatment in Jerusalem now face higher risks caused by the delays in reaching the necessary facilities.
The major fear amongst the Palestinian communities in Shu’fat Refugee Camp and the surrounding areas is that this new checkpoint most likely signifies a first step that will eventually lead to their Jerusalem residency being taken away from them by the Israeli authorities. If this indeed is the case, thousands of Palestinians will no longer be able to access Jerusalem without a permit. Consequently, they will have no access to their schools, workplace and other facilities and institutions.
Basel Muhammad Al-Joulani
Last week, Basel Muhammad al-Joulani (13-years-old) from Shu’fat Refugee Camp was forced to pass through the new checkpoint every day in order to reach his school located on the other side of the checkpoint in East Jerusalem. The following is an excerpt from Basel’s affidavit on his experience:
“I remember being very scared the first time I passed through the checkpoint on foot. I had to enter a small room filled with soldiers everywhere. There was a large number of students with me in the room and every student was being called one by one to pass through revolving iron bars. After I got out of that room there were stairs that led to a road surrounded with iron nets. It’s a long pathway, it took me about ten minutes to get from the pathway onto my school bus [waiting on the other side of the checkpoint]” (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 6863/2011).
As time passes, people expect the security proceedures at the checkpoint to tighten and become even worse than the infamous Qalandiya checkpoint.