Israeli Soldiers fire their guns in the air to signal Palestinian vehicles gathered from the Gaza Strip’s southern areas to turn their engines on and move across the Israeli checkpoint near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim to head to Gaza City.
The traffic starts crossing through the Israeli military barrier while Palestinians nervously eye two tanks parked near the checkpoint. Several Israeli soldiers watch the vehicles and passengers.
Taxi driver Nidal Abu Skander sat frustrated and angry while waiting in the queue of cars.
“We need a catalogue to show us the types of gunshots the soldiers are firing and which sound means to move and which one means to stop,” said Abu Skander.
The Israeli soldiers open the main road connecting the Gaza Strip’s southern areas with ts north for two hours each morning, close it, then reopen it for another two hours at the end of the day. At night the passage is sealed.
Israeli occupation forces have divided the 36 square kilometer Gaza Strip and its 1.3 million people into four separate areas with tanks, sand hills and checkpoints between each zone.
Israel says that the measure was taken after daily and nightly Palestinian gunfire at Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers in many Gaza Strip areas, especially around Jewish settlements.
It justifies the collective punishment as a means of pressuring Palestinians to put an end to “violence” and military operations carried out against Israeli soldiers and settlers.
Chief of preventive security in the Gaza Strip Colonel Mohamed Dahlan said in an interview that Israel must return the situation to what it was before the eruption of the confrontations on September 28 by ending all its security blockades.
At Netzarim, an Israeli soldier is propped on a huge Merkavah tank, his finger on the trigger of an automatic machinegun ready to open fire at any Palestinian vehicle or individual that moves in the wrong direction.
This is how hundreds of Palestinian residents move daily throughout the Gaza Strip enclave under the new Israeli siege, imposed several days ago. This is how they go to work, to school and university classes, to the hospital or to export their vegetables and fruits.
The Israeli soldiers do not wave with their hands to order cars to move or to stop. Instead, the sound of gunshots has become the traffic signal ordering hundreds of Palestinian cars to stop or move forward.
And not every driver can cross the checkpoint within the two allotted hours. Only those who leave their homes early in the morning and live close to the barrier manage to make it across. Those who do not, must simply wait for the evening crossing.
One passenger, Najeya Abu Draz, 58, from the southern town of Deir El Balah, was going to visit her sick daughter in one of Gaza City’s main hospitals.
“It is a humiliating trip,” she said, whispering verses from the Quran for her safety. She said that the only way to get to her daughter is to pass the Israeli military barrier.
Most residents of the south with urgent business and relatives or friends in Gaza City stay overnight in town to have enough time to finish what they came for.
For the first two days of the siege, when Israeli soldiers were not allowing residents to move at all, those who had to go to Gaza City used boats and sailed from the beach of Deir El Balah to the Gaza City beach.
“It is really ridiculous that our roads and streets are closed, and we have to use the ocean to move,” said Nader Mesleh, an employee at a Gaza café. He added that it is always risky to use the ocean or bypass roads, because soldiers sometimes shoot at vehicles circumventing the siege.
While people wait in line to cross, they tell stories to ease the fear and anxiety.
One of those stories is that of a father and his one week-old baby who died in the hospital. The father went to beg the soldiers to let him pass to bury his son.
The soldiers refused to listen to the man, and when he kept begging them to let him cross to bury his baby in one of the refugee camps, the soldiers turned their guns on him.
The distance between Rafah town in the south and Bet Hanoun village in the northern Gaza Strip only takes 35 minutes by a taxi on a normal day.
But under the Israeli siege, imposed until further notice, the trip from south to north can take days.