HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli settlers on Saturday destroyed more than 1,000 olive trees near the village of al-Shuyukh north of Hebron, in the third such attack on the villagers’ livelihood in recent memory.
Local activist Ahmad al-Halayqa told Ma’an that Israelis from the nearby settlement of Asfar, also known as Metzad, attacked the village and destroyed 1,200 trees.
He said that all of the destroyed trees had been recently planted following a similar attack by individuals from the same settlement which had destroyed trees in the area last month.
He said that the trees in the area belonged to local Palestinian farmer, Muhammad Abu Shanab al-Ayaydah as well as the children of Abd al-Qader Abu Shanab al-Ayaydah and Mousa Abu Shanab al-Ayayadah.
Al-Halayqa told Ma’an that the settlement of Asfar is located on land confiscated by Israeli authorities from Palestinian residents of al-Shuyukh, and now they hope to expand the land under their control by taking over the area where the olive trees were targeted.
Attacks on olive trees are a key way that Palestinians are forced out of their homes and their lands confiscated for settlement construction, as the loss of a year’s crop can signal destitution for many.
If attacks are frequent enough that Palestinians can no longer access their trees regularly, meanwhile, settlers can argue that Palestinians have abandoned the properties and thus take possession of them as well.
Since 1967, approximately 800,000 olive trees have been uprooted in the occupied West Bank, according to a joint report by the Palestinian Authority and the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem.
The olive industry supports the livelihoods of roughly 80,000 families in the occupied West Bank.
Settler violence against Palestinians and their property in the occupied West Bank is systematic and ignored by Israeli authorities, who rarely intervene in the violent attacks or prosecute the perpetrators.
The were 324 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in 2014, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.