SALFIT (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces uprooted 100 olive trees in the Wadi Qana area west of the village of Deir Istiya in Salfit district on Tuesday amid ongoing efforts to push Palestinians out of the area, locals said.
Farmers from Deir Istiya told Ma’an the forces arrived in Wadi Qana and uprooted the trees without prior notice.
Soldiers then forced locals from the area in order to allow Israeli settlers to arrive there, the farmers said.
Ibrahim al-Hamad, director of the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture’s Salfit branch, told Ma'an that soldiers removed the seven-year-old trees on the grounds that the area is a nature reserve, with planting prohibited in the area.
Al-Hamad added that Israeli soldiers also removed a water tank belonging to Palestinian locals.
A spokesperson for Israel's Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told Ma'an that "security forces removed about 80 olive tress that were planted illegally, without a permit, within the nature reserve Nahal Kane," referring to the Hebrew name given to Wadi Qana.
"The removal was enforced after the natural growth in the area was damaged, and after alert orders were given," the spokesperson added.
Wadi Qana, a valley that has historically served agricultural and recreational purposes for local Palestinians who own land in the area, was declared a nature reserve by Israel’s Civil Administration in 1983.
Israel has used this designation for years to justify uprooting Palestinian crops and forcing Palestinians from the area, according to
Israeli rights group B’Tselem.
Several Jewish-only Israeli settlements and outposts have been illegally established along the ridges of the valley since the 1970s.
Waste water dumped from the settlements has gradually polluted the river, forcing out Palestinians who have lived in and visited the valley for generations.
Palestinian owners of land in Wadi Qana and the village of Dir Istiya have meanwhile been prevented from building or planting in the area, the majority of which is in Area C, under the full civil and military control of Israel.