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Israeli forces uproot 50 olive trees as Palestinian farmer awaits court date to appeal

Aug. 16, 2016 7:00 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 17, 2016 5:21 P.M.)
TULKAREM (Ma’an) -- Israeli bulldozers uprooted more than 50 olive trees on Tuesday morning in the Palestinian village of Shufa in the northern occupied West Bank district of Tulkarem, Palestinian farmers told Ma’an, two weeks before a court hearing was scheduled to be held to appeal the Israeli-ordered confiscation of the land.

One of the farmers, Abed Hamid, said he received a phone call from a neighbor notifying him that Israeli forces brought bulldozers to his olive tree orchard and started to uproot the trees, which were planted between 15 and 20 years ago.

After Hamid rushed to his land, he said he witnessed Israeli forces “stealing” the majority of his trees, which were left intact.

The bulldozers also tore down dry-stone walls in the field.

Two months ago, Hamid said, Israeli authorities notified him that 40 dunams (10 acres) of his land were slated for confiscation. His lawyer, a Palestinian living in Israel, told Hamid a court hearing had been arranged, which was expected to be held in the coming two weeks. However, Israeli forces apparently enforced the land confiscation as Hamid was waiting to make his appeal.

A spokesperson for Israel's Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which is responsible for implementing the Israeli government's policy in the occupied Palestinian territory, responded to a request for comment on Wednesday, saying: "
Yesterday, the evacuation for trespassing state lands was carried out near the village of Shufa, in addition to the removal of illegally planted trees."

"Prior to enforcements," the statement added, "all the necessary orders were given to the perpetrator. The perpetrator did not take initiative in removing the trees independently. Accordingly,  authorities carried out such enforcements."

Vast areas of private Palestinian land between the villages of Jubara and Shufa south of the city Tulkarem are slated for confiscation by Israel for the expansion of the nearby illegal Israeli settlement Avne Hefetz.

Last week, some 500 olive trees were bulldozed by Israeli settlers under armed military escort in the northern West Bank district of Salfit, without prior notice, under the pretext that they were located on state lands confiscated by Israel.

Israel has recently stepped up land confiscation in the occupied West Bank, with settlement watchdog Peace Now warning in March that Israel had not confiscated such large swathes of land for the purpose of settlement expansion since the pre-Oslo period in the 1980s.
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