The plane carrying Defense Minister Ehud Barak back from a meeting with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell had not yet landed in Israel when the IDF announced that it would be effectively neutralizing its checkpoint at Hawara, south of Shechem. Starting this Friday, Arabs will be allowed to cross the checkpoint freely on foot without undergoing searches. Only vehicles will have to submit to searches.
Scenes from Hawara checkpoint (Israel news photos: Flash 90).
The Hawara checkpoint south of Shechem is considered one of the most important in the IDF’s network of security checkpoints in Judea and Samaria. For decades, IDF commanders have called Shechem “the capital of Arab terror” in Judea and Samaria, because of the large number of hard-core terror organizations and Arab murder squads that made it their home.
In recent years IDF soldiers at the checkpoint regularly discovered terror weapons on the bodies of Arabs who passed through the Hawara checkpoint. Numerous terror incidents occurred at the checkpoint itself.
Video: terrorists paid a 14-year-old NIS 100 to detonate a suicide belt against soldiers at Hawara (also viewable here).
Early last month, a 13-year-old Arab stabbed a soldier at the crossing, wounding him lightly.
The opening of the Hawara checkpoint is part of an Israeli initiative to reduce the entry of IDF forces into the cities of Ramallah, Kalkilya, Jericho and Bethlehem. The PA’s U.S.-trained forces will instead be trusted to police the cities 24 hours a day, as opposed to the previous arrangement, in which the IDF “owned the night” in the cities and operated freely there between midnight and 5 a.m.
DM 'playing roulette'
The Shomron Residents’ Council, a grassroots activist group, was riled by the decision, calling it “scandalous.” The Defense Minister "is gambling on the lives of the Jewish residents as if it were a game of roulette,” they accused. Through this move, they said, Barak has become “a collaborator with the terrorists who will now be able to move about freely and carry out their deeds with greater ease.” The council added that “it is sad to see the Chief of Staff carrying out a clearly illegal order.”
MK Aryeh Eldad said Wednesday that in recent years, a week did not go by without the discovery of terrorists trying to carry pipe bombs, suicide belts, knives and other murder weapons through Hawara. “The lives of hundreds of Israelis were saved by the Hawara checkpoint and the lives of thousands of other Israelis are now in danger because of a criminal gesture to Arabs and Americans,” he said.
Hanael Durani, Mayor of Kedumim, sent a letter to Barak Wednesday in which he expressed stupefaction at the decision to open the checkpoint for free Arab movement.
“I am not telling you something that you, or the entire nation of Israel, do not know,” he wrote. “The security checks at this checkpoint saved the lives of many Jews. Cancelling the security checks does not only endanger the lives of the nearby Jewish residents of Samaria; even more than this it endangers all of the residents of Israel, who are exposed to daily mortal danger.”
“No state, and least of all the United States, would enable terrorists to move about freely,” he noted.
The IDF has removed about 140 road blockages and checkpoints in Judea and Samaria over the past year.