“Smuggling hatches”…the traps of Palestinian workers and their livelihood drenched in blood.

A Palestinian worker waits to enter a hole at the wall in the Hebron area in the southern West Bank (Al-Jazeera)

Atef Douglas — Nablus

22/1/2021

Days after receiving treatment at the governmental hospital in Tulkarm (northern West Bank); The young Muawiyah Al-Ayesh returns to his home in the city of Nablus; To complete his treatment, after he was shot by the Israeli occupation forces last week while crossing the road trying to enter Israel for work.

Through a hole made in the metal separation barrier, which Israel built along its border with the occupied West Bank in 1967, Al-Ayesh and other workers wanted to cross the barrier after being closed by Israel under the pretext of Corona, and forced them to take detours to reach their work areas.

At 3:30 am, Muawiyah (25 years old) had arrived at “the smuggling hole” at Pharaon village, near Tulkarm city, and it’s one of more than 30 holes in that area. In complete darkness, he checked any presence of occupation’s soldiers on the other side, and he tried to cross after he thought the road was clear, that’s how he got shot and bullets penetrated his body and the body of others.

The soldiers were hiding among trees, and they fired towards the workers from a short distance (less than 10 meters), wounding 10 workers, and 6 of them were seriously injured, including Muawiyah who broke his leg.

Raafat Salah after being shot in the leg by live bullets while trying to cross a slot in the south of Jenin in the West Bank (Al-Jazeera)

Tough living condition

for a long time, Muawiyah kept bleeding, and he passed out before he was transferred to the hospital, and in his talk with Al-Jazeera net he said that the soldiers deliberately opened fire with the aim to kill him or make him disable and they used to live and explosive bullets knowns as “the tutu”.

Three years ago, Muawiyah got graduated from university, and all his effort to find a job to help him go through difficulty in life were failed, so he was forced to go and work inside Israel, and his engagement was a way to obtain a work permit because the chances of married people are greater than others under the conditions of the occupation to grant permits.

There are more than 130 slots from the north of the West Bank to its south that are made by Palestinians to enter and work in Israel, and the occupation army may open them for security reasons, But these slots are monitored by the occupation forces since they know their locations.

And similar to Muawiyah’s situation, the construction worker Raafat Salah, from Burqa village (North of Nablus) faced certain death, after he was seriously injured by a live bullet while crossing the slot near Jenin city (Northern West Bank), two weeks ago. His colleagues were able to drag him and take him to the hospital.

In his dialect, Salah, 27, describes the life of a Palestinian worker as “bitter; he leaves his house after midnight, and for hours he watches the road in contact with other workers, who enter in different separate groups so the occupation does not have the chance to single out any worker they might catch.

and he added, “the time that a worker spends on checkpoints and slots is longer than the time he spends with his family and kids”.

even the workers who go through the checkpoints face endless difficulty from congestion and occupation’s procedures. (Al Jazeera)

Harsh work Procedures and conditions

Since last March, Israel closed its checkpoints and prevented an estimation of 180 thousand workers (legal and smuggled) from entering as part of Corona measures, and later it allowed agricultural and construction workers to enter under strict conditions and specific times.

the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions says that with closing the checkpoints the workers had two options, either staying at home or going to their worksites without returning for 60 days based on the conditions of Israeli employers, and that’s how the workers tried to cross the military checkpoints and the smuggling slots at the same time.

The worker Imad Abu Saif, who is documenting the daily events at the checkpoints with his mobile, says that the soldiers throw a huge amount of tear gas towards the workers and “it looks like a breakfast for the workers”, in addition to the humiliating ways of transportation and hiding between trees and during the extreme cold weather”.

With some laughter mixed with sarcasm, Abu Saif (59 years old) tells Al Jazeera net how they are forced and humiliated to do “a morning workout” while walking for a few kilometers in danger to get to the closest vehicle to take them to their workplaces.

For these reasons, Abu Saif has to stay and sleep inside Israel under inhuman conditions, at expensive prices where he has to pay at least 10 USD for one bed per night and with a huge number of workers in the same room.

the wall between the town of Taybeh inside the green line and lands of Pharaon village, south of Tulkarm (Al Jazeera)

Before the Corona crisis, Abu Seif did not have difficulties crossing the checkpoint since he’s above 55 years old, and he is one of those allowed by the occupation authority to enter without a permit, but after corona, they were permanently prevented from entering, and also Israel prevented any worker, or one of his direct relatives, who got infected by the virus, from entering for a month.

According to the stats of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions from the last quarter of 2019, the Palestinian workforce is estimated to be around 2,340,200 workers in West Bank and Gaza, including “the workers in Israel”, and the percentage of unemployment at that time reached around 25% among them and the number of unemployed people reached to 334,100 people during the same period.

There is something other than bullets that may face the “ the workers of slots” who are estimated to be more than 60,000, so arresting any one of them means detaining him for more than 20 hours while being handcuffed in cold temperature or under the sun, in addition, to fines him with big sums of money, and document his name as “violator” which leads to confiscation his right of obtaining a work permit.

And what threatens workers, especially those without permits, is depriving them of any material rights from the end of service, their fees, or compensation for any damages that may affect them, as well as not having equal wages as other workers, in addition to frauds and scams.

The estimation of Palestinian workers is more than 60,000.

Death is close

Even Though none of the workers died at the slots, dozens of them got injured by live bullets, and hundreds of them suffocated, daily, from tear gas. The data of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions indicates that 62 workers died while being at their workplace during 2020, and 73 others during 2019. The reasons for deaths are many but the most important one was the lack of safety tools and the appropriate conditions from their Israeli employer.

According to Adnan Al-Asi, the Secretary of the Federation of Trade Union in Tulkarm, the reason behind the behavior of soldiers to shoot at the workers is to create a state of pressure on the Palestinian Authority and the workers themselves and not for security threats as the Israeli army claims every time.

in his interview with Al-Jazeera, Al-Assi described the Palestinian worker as someone who is carrying his blood on his palm, as a metaphor of being under threat of death all the time. This is not only the state of “the workers of the slots’’ who face an unknown fate as getting injured, or arrest and detention, it is the state of workers who cross the checkpoints where there is congestion and delays, and all this according to the mood of the soldiers.

After 40 days, Muawiyah will go back to the hospital to remove his splint from his injured leg, and in three months his health conditions may allow him to work, and it is the same for Raafat Salah, but this will not prevent them from going through the slots again since the economic condition s are miserable and the commitments and responsibilities are huge.

Source: Aljazeera.net (Original Content -Arabic)

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