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From the field

Soldier testimony: "The spirit of things was to make life unbearable for the Palestinians," February 2002

H.L., Staff Sgt. (Res.), Infantry Brigade

The brigade commander decided that since he can't completely prevent Palestinian movement, with the exception of a few locations where all the entrances are closed, we would "make them not want to travel there." So a makeshift checkpoint is set up, we stop cars, and we turn them back. Fifteen minutes later, we allow them through. The point is that people will think twice before taking that route. We were told to do this in briefings given by the company commander. Simply so they won't want to travel there. Then you stand on the road and stop vehicles. A truck with food comes along bringing supplies to a village, which is totally closed off. It is like supplies being brought to a remote military post. And you stop the truck and order it to turn around. For no apparent reason. It is simply closed and if he doesn't turn around immediately and starts arguing then you start checking his papers etc.

We also initiated some makeshift checkpoints, entirely at random, not because of any General Security Services' warnings. The objective is that if the IDF pops up at a different place every time, they won't know where to come from - and you can understand the operational rationale behind that. But there is not much operational rationale behind erecting a checkpoint on a rainy day, having people get out and get wet, the car gets wet, checking their papers and letting them continue on along a route that simply connects two villages. They have no way of getting to Israel from that road. It is an activity that genuinely stems from orders which are logical, but you end up pointing a gun at a woman with two children. It makes you a little uncomfortable. It seems as if the orders are to make them hate us, until they do something and then we will have just cause to let them have it.

We did not get any briefing regarding what happens when an ambulance approaches the checkpoint. I tend to believe that in such situations we would call over the walkie-talkie saying that an ambulance has arrived and asking what to do. There were no clear cut orders to let ambulances through, but there were no orders not to. Because we are veteran reservists we were given discretion on such issues.

The spirit of things was to make life unbearable for the Palestinians. Stop them, inspect them a thousand and one times so that they wont want to drive that route. It seemed stupid to me. You harm people's livelihood, harm people's life, detain children on the way to school, what good can come from this to the army, or to the country? />/>/>/>/>/>