Israeli military disrupts life of ~6,500 Palestinians in Kafr a-Dik for 40 days
On 11 August 2017, the Israeli military shut and locked the gate it had installed some six years earlier at the main entrance to Kafr a-Dik, a Palestinian village west of Salfit, to prevent passage by vehicle. According to the village council, the Israeli DCO justified the closure on the grounds that youths from the village had repeatedly thrown suspicious objects and Molotov cocktails at Route 446, which is used by settlers. Approximately 6,500 people live in Kafr a-Dik. Some 200 are employed in settlements north of the village – particularly Alei Zahav, Pedu’el and Bruchin – and another 500 or so are employed in civil service in Ramallah.
The village has four entrances. The main entrance, which was closed off, lies on the northwest side of the village and leads to a road that connects to Route 446 – a highway. Six years ago, the military installed a gate some two kilometers from the entrance. Another entrance, to the northeast, leads to a road that passes through the village of Bruqin and serves as the residents’ alternative route. Two other roads – one to the south, leading to Deir Ghasana and other villages, and a narrow and run-down road to the east that also leads to Bruqin – are rarely used.
The closure of the gate forced residents to take the alternative route, which is narrow and weaves between the houses of Bruqin, adding nine kilometers to their journey. Those who work in the settlements to the northwest had to park their cars by the gate and walk about a mile or drive along a lengthy detour, incurring extra fuel costs or higher taxi fares for those who do not own a car.
On 7 September 2017, the military opened the gate, only to close it again the next day without offering any explanation to the residents. On 21 September 2017, the military opened the gate again, without any prior notice. It has remained open since.
For 40 days, the military casually disrupted the lives of thousands of people who were not suspected of committing any offense. This collective punishment is part of a policy in which the military cynically abuses its power to harass Palestinians. There can be no moral or legal justification for this conduct.
In testimonies given to B'Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi, village residents described how the closure disrupted their lives:
‘Anan ‘Ali Ahmad, 24, married, works in a welding workshop in the settlement of Alei Zahav. In a testimony he gave on 13 September 2017, he described his exhausting journey to and from work:
About a year ago, I started working in a welding workshop in the industrial zone of the Alei Zahav settlement. I usually get to work and back in a shared taxi with four other workers. The journey costs five shekels (~1.5 USD) each.
A month ago, the military closed the gate on the road that leads to our workplace. Since then, the taxi driver has had to take a detour through the neighboring village of Bruqin, connecting to the bypass road that leads to the settlements of Alei Zahav and Pedu’el.
The detour has made the journey much more expensive. The driver started taking 15 shekels (~4.5 USD) a head – three times the usual rate. We also have to leave home earlier in order to get there on time. Our workday is very long as it is – from 7:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M.
After three weeks of paying the higher rate, my friends and I decided to start driving a car to the gate and walking to work from there. That’s about a mile on foot in every direction.
A lot of people from Kafr a-Dik and the neighboring villages have been forced to do the same – pay higher rates or walk.
We don’t know why the military closed the gate. I should add that there are security cameras on the gate, so the military can monitor any movement in the area. Closing the gate is collective punishment that hurts us all, including the neighboring villages.
Ahmad ‘Ali Ahmad, 30, single, drives a taxi in Kafr a-Dik and in the area of Salfit. In a testimony he gave on 28 August 2017, he explained:
The northwest road is a major traffic artery connecting Kafr a-Dik with the villages in the west of the Salfit District, such as Deir Ballut, Rafat and a-Zawiya, as well as with villages in the Ramallah District, including a-Lubban al-Gharbiyah, Rantis, Ni’lin and others to the west.
Closing the road has made travel more difficult and forced residents to find alternatives that cost time and money.
For example, when residents book a taxi from Kafr a-Dik to Deir Ballut, the journey is usually six kilometers and I charge 25 shekels (~7 USD). Now that gate is closed, we drive through Bruqin and then onto the 446, coming back toward the closed gate from the west and then on to Deir Ballut. That’s 15 kilometers along an exhausting route. It takes much more time and the passenger pays 45 shekels (~13 USD) – almost double – to reach the same destination.
It’s an added burden for both passengers and driver, not to mention the poor condition of the alternative route.
In a testimony he gave on 28 August 2017, Fathi Sharif Sa’id ‘Ali Ahmad, 60, a married father of seven, explained how closing the gate without warning made relatives late for his son’s wedding:
On 11 August 2017, as part of my son’s wedding, we drove to the bride’s home in the village of Deir Istiya to bring her to our village in a traditional procession. We drove in twenty private cars and a bus carrying fifty passengers. We left Kafr a-Dik at 6:00 P.M., along the road that leads to the highway. After two kilometers, we reached the gate and were surprised to find it closed, with a military jeep stationed there. We parked the vehicles and I got out, with several relatives, to ask the soldiers what was going on. I asked them to open the gate so we could bring the bride in.
We argued with the soldiers and tried to explain that we had many women and children with us, and that this was a wedding. But they refused to open the gate. We had to go back to the village and travel through Bruqin, from there onto the highway to Haris, and on to Deir Istiya. The road to Bruqin is in bad shape – it isn’t a main road.
We don’t know why the soldiers closed the gate. No one informed us of the reason. This is collective punishment of our entire village and of other villages in the area, and it harms us all.