Settlers continue to sabotage olive trees across West Bank

Published 19.01.2019 00:00

In a rampant wave of vandalism, Jewish settlers continue to destroy Palestinian olive groves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. More than 7,000 Palestinian-owned trees have been vandalized so far this year, according to the United Nations. In the whole of 2017, it was less than 6,000, the year before only 1,600.

Olives are perhaps the most well-known and abundant Palestinian product, with trees lining valleys and terraced hillsides throughout the occupied West Bank. The first rains after the hot summer months are the signal for farmers to begin harvesting their crop, but it can come with risks. In many places, Palestinian farmers say they face intimidation and violence from nearby settlers and call in support from foreign and Israeli supporters, including Jewish rabbis, to protect them and their crops.

Rights groups also charge that Palestinian crops have long been vandalized by settlers without any serious effort by the authorities to stop it. Around 400,000 Israelis live in settlements that dot the West Bank and range in size from large towns to tiny hamlets. The international community regards all Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories to be illegal and a major obstacle to Middle East peace. The area, captured by Israel in 1967, is not sovereign Israeli territory, and Palestinians there are not Israeli citizens and do not have the right to vote.

Jewish settlers on Friday vandalized a Palestinian olive grove in the town of Mughiyyar north of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, according to witnesses. Amin Abu Aliya, head of Mughiyyar's local council, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that a group of settlers had chopped down around 20 olive trees planted almost three decades ago. According to Abu Aliya, attacks by Jewish settlers, both on Palestinians and their property, have increased in frequency in recent months. He accused the Israeli army of providing protection to rampaging settlers.

Israeli daily Haaretz recently reported that settler attacks on West Bank Palestinians had tripled in 2018, with at least 482 separate attacks recorded last year, up from 140 attacks in 2017. According to the newspaper, attacks ranged from beating up Palestinians and vandalizing their property to cutting down trees belonging to Palestinian farmers.

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