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From the field

Restrictions on Ras a-Tira following construction of the Separation Barrier, Qalailiya District, July 2005

Yasin Mara'abeh, father of ten

I live in the village of Ras a-Tira which has approximately 400-420 residents. The village is north-east of the city of Qalqiliya and 700 meters south of the Alfei Menashe settlement. The village owns 3,000 dunams of land. The Separation Barrier runs through the village and sits on about 80 dunams. Some 120 dunams of land were left east of the barrier. In the past, it took a few minutes to get there, now you would have to drive for an hour and a half in a vehicle, and then walk through the hills. The village has over 300 dunams west of the fence. The road to this area is blocked by the barrier's route, so in order to get there, you would now have to cross through land belonging to residents of other villages, which causes friction between land owners.

Before the barrier was built, residents of our village received most of the services they needed in the village of Habla, which is three kilometers away. The drive to Habala took no more then ten minutes. Now, since the barrier was built, you need to drive through the gate. The gate opens at 6 AM and closes at 6 PM, but we are not allowed to transfer merchandise through the gate. The merchandise can only be transferred through the DCO checkpoint, which adds about 15 kilometers to the drive. The DCO checkpoint is run by Israeli police officers that check the cars and give out big fines to the drivers of cars that don't meet the required standards. As a result, not only are our travel costs are higher, but you need an car that is in good condition and has been approved by the Licensing Bureau in order to cross the barrier. In many cases, the soldiers at the checkpoint will ask us to take all of our belongings out of the car in order to search it. For example, this morning, my brother Luai, age 31, was asked to remove from his truck one ton of fodder for our cows. My brother told the soldiers that he couldn't take it out on his own, so the soldiers told him to leave and come back with people to help him carry the load. When my brother told the soldiers that his workers don't have permits, they said it wasn't their problem and threatened him by saying '“you will be detained for the whole day if you don't unload your cargo from your truck.'” Eventually, my brother had to unload and reload the cargo by himself, after it was checked. This happens often to residents of the village.

We have problems relating to education as well. Seventeen students need to drive to Ras Atiya, Habala, and Qalqiliya everyday and pass though the gate. The soldiers check every last belonging that they have with them and make the students late for school. Sometimes, the soldiers announce that the gate is closed as a result of high alerts, and as a result the students have missed many school days.

In the past, we went to Habala or 'Kafr Thulth to get medical care, but now in order to get to these places we need to pass through the gate which takes too much time. At night, we can receive only get medical treatment in Qalqiliya. Two years ago, my brother's daughter, Nabal Taufik, who is nine years-old, got sick and had an extremely high temperature. My brother wanted to take her to Habla but the soldiers wouldn't let him through the barrier claiming that they didn't have the key to the gate. In the end, the doctor came to the other side of the gate and checked her through the fence. The doctor stood on the eastern side of the gate and stuck the stethoscope through the gaps in the fence. He tried to give her a shot but was not able to, so he gave her pills instead.

The fence prevents us from maintaining relationships with friends and family that live on the other side. No one can enter the area without a special permit, and in many cases, the permits are denied. There are many women whose parents live on the eastern side of the fence. My brother, Zaharan Yunes, got married four years ago to Labna Jaber, age 24. Since the barrier was built, her parents have not been able to visit her. Over and over again they submit a request for a permit and are denied. This restriction includes all of her family members. There are many similar cases.

The permits have become an essential part of the residents' lives. Several times I have driven to Qalqiliya and have forgotten my permit at home since I was not asked to present it on my way there. Therefore, I would be held up and sent back to get it. This would take a long time. In one case, my son Diya, 22 years old, forgot his permit and was detained for an hour and a half until we got hold of a vehicle that took us to the gate to bring Diya his permit so he would be allowed to come back home.

There are families that own land and houses in the village but have possessions in other areas as well. In mid 2003 a population census was carried out, without anyone being told in advance. Some of the residents who have possessions outside of the village were not present that day. Therefore, they were not listed as residents and have not been given permits to enter the village and return to their home and land.

Yasin Younes Muhammad Mara'abeh, age 46, married and a father of 10, is a resident of Ras a-Tira near Qalqiliya. His testimony was taken by Karim Jabran

on 20 July 2005 at the witness's home