Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Israeli army and settlers vandalize about 3,000 olive trees in two weeks’ time

By Jan Walraven - February 05, 2014
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Salfit] [Ramallah] [Olive Trees] [Settlers attacks]

In Turmus Ayya the damage was mostly done to newly planted saplings, that were just two weeks old. Most of them were torn out of the ground. Some older trees had broken branches.


In Sinjil and Turmus Ayya, two villages in Ramallah governorate, approximately 2,000 olive trees and saplings were vandalized or uprooted on 2 February. According to Talal Jibara, member of the Turmus Ayya municipality, settlers from Edi Ad, a nearby outpost settlement, damaged about 600 trees and newly planted saplings in Turmus Ayya over Sunday night. The saplings, planted only two weeks ago, were simply torn out of the ground. In Sinjil about 1,200 trees were vandalized the same night, Jibara said in an interview with the Palestine Monitor on Tuesday. In Sinjil, the targeted trees were planted three years ago as part of a project funded by the International Red Cross Committee.

This incident is the second of its kind in two weeks’ time, said Jibara. Just two weeks ago, on 22 January, settlers damaged an additional 700 trees in Sinjil.

In Wadi Qana, located in the Salfit governorate just north of Ramallah, an Israeli army unit accompanied by bulldozers targeted olive groves on 23 January. The Israeli army claimed the plot to be state land and a natural reserve. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 1,000 olive trees were uprooted and seized. OCHA also notes that the Palestinian farmers claim private ownership over the targeted plot. In clashes following the incident, a 73-year-old Palestinian farmer was injured. Already in May of last year, villagers received an initial warning from the Israeli Nature Protection Authority on the uprooting of 1,700 trees.

“I don’t want any money”

“This is not the first time. Incidents take place almost every day,” Jibara said on Tuesday. 
“One year ago about 200 trees were poisoned with some kind of acid. The Israeli army and police know who keeps doing this. There are 5 or 6 settlers who cause all these problems, but they just let them go along. But when we get to close to the outposts or settlements while we’re working our fields, the security forces will stop us and send us back.”

Mufid Hussein Hajaz, one of the targeted farmers of Turmus Ayya, says he lost about 85 trees in the attack. The Israel army advised him to report these damages to the Israeli police, in order to claim a financial compensation. 

“They want me to take pictures and collect evidence, in order to get money,” said Hajaz. “But I don’t want any money, I just want the settlers to stop damaging my olive trees.” 

Talal Jibara points out that one of the farmers of Turmus Ayya filed 87 reports last year, without any result. 

Between January 2005 and June 2013 Yesh Din—an Israeli human rights group—monitored 211 investigations by the Israeli police into damage done to Palestinian-owned olive trees in the West Bank. According to their research, 97.4% of these investigations were closed without any result due to police failings.

Numbers keep rising

In the last two weeks, during these separate incidents, approximately 3,000 olive trees or saplings were uprooted. According to numbers of OCHA Opt, 10,142 olive trees and saplings were burned, uprooted or vandalized by settlers in 2013. This means that in two weeks’ time, throughout the incidents in Sinjil, Turmus Aya and Wadi Qana, the Israeli army and Israeli settlers destroyed more than a quarter of the total number of trees uprooted by settlers in all of 2013.

OCHA already noted a twenty percent increase in the uprooting of olive trees in 2013 compared to 2012, when Israeli settlers vandalized 8,529 Palestinian-owned trees. Although there were fewer reports of Israeli settler attacks during the last olive harvest season, settlers carried out more attacks on olive groves before the start of the harvest season and throughout the rest of 2013.

Restricted access

Palestinian farmers, whose olive groves are located near Israeli settlements and settlement outposts or in the special security zones surrounding the settlements, only have limited access to these groves. 

According to the Israeli army, the restrictions placed on Palestinian farmers are necessary in order to protect the surrounding settlements and their inhabitants, notes the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem. But the farmers of Turmus Ayya claim that settlers harass them as they work in the field, not the other way around.

Before the start of the harvest season farmers who own groves in the vicinity of settlements have to coordinate with the Israeli army regarding the periods they are allowed to enter their groves. During these limited periods, the Israeli army deploys additional forces that accompany the farmers.

B’Tselem reported 27 cases of abuse and damage to property throughout the whole West Bank during the latest harvest season, which started on October 10th 2013 and lasted about 40 days. This comes in spite of the protective measures taken by the Israeli army. Some of the reported assaults weren’t necessarily carried out during this period, but the damage could only be discovered and reported by the farmers while they were allowed access. 

As a result of the very restricted access to some lands, farmers aren’t able to perform some essential acts like ploughing or fertilizing during the rest of the year. This leads to a decline in the amount of harvested olives, but also in the quality of the produce.

OCHA points out that about half of Palestinian agricultural land is being used to grow and harvest olives—about eight million olive trees account for a quarter of the agricultural income of the occupied Palestinian territories, while some 100.000 families rely on the annual olive harvest for some part of their income.



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