New checkpoint opened at entrance to Shuafat

Police say new structure intended to make passage "more comfortable"; residents fear move aims to disconnect them from J'lem.

New checkpoint in Shuafat east Jerusalem 311  (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
New checkpoint in Shuafat east Jerusalem 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Police opened a new checkpoint at the entrance of the Shuafat Refugee Camp in northeastern Jerusalem on Monday morning, a move that has caused some unrest at the entrance to the camp with large groups of youths throwing stones at patrols of border police vehicles.
Ten people, mostly youth, have been arrested over the past week for disturbing the peace and throwing stones.
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The new checkpoint has a permanent roof to protect soldiers and guards in the winter – six lanes for cars instead of two, and a paved walkway for pedestrians. The police said the new checkpoint “will allow a more comfortable and spacious exit and entrance” to the neighborhood.
While the new checkpoint is expected to significantly decrease waiting time for cars entering and leaving the neighborhood, the residents said their anger is directed at the new checkpoint because it represents a more permanent step in cutting off the residents from Jerusalem.
Much of the Shuafat Refugee Camp is located within municipal Jerusalem, though it is located on the West Bank side of the security barrier. The original residents of Shuafat Refugee Camp hold blue identity cards, and many work and send their children to school in Jerusalem.
The 60,000 Israeli-Arab residents who live in Jerusalem neighborhoods on the other side of the security barrier are supposed to receive the same services – including trash, sewage, and water – as the rest of the city, though the reality is very different.
These neighborhoods, the Shuafat Refugee Camp, Kafr Aqab, Semiramis, Zughayer and Atarot, are under the responsibility of the Israeli police, but the police barely enter these neighborhoods due to security concerns. Additionally, Palestinian security forces are forbidden from entering the neighborhoods because it is considered part of Jerusalem. The resulting situation is a lawless no-man’s-land strewn with trash, and severely lacking in city services.
“[The new checkpoint] makes it official, they made it so there’d be a real division,” said A., who owns a convenience store outside the checkpoint.
A taxi driver from the Shuafat Camp said the wait to exit the neighborhood in the morning with the old checkpoint, which only had one lane of traffic in each direction, usually took between 20 to 30 minutes in the morning.
“We hope residents will take advantage of the opportunity they have to go in and out. We hope it will be used at maximum capacity,” said National Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
Rosenfeld estimated that the checkpoint handles more than 10,000 crossings per day. Kalandiya, the major checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah, handles well over 25,000 crossings per day.