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Palestinian farmers accuse Israeli settlers of stealing harvest from 400 olive trees

Nov. 7, 2016 5:07 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 8, 2016 12:16 P.M.)
(MaanImages/Anna Kokko, File)
NABLUS (Ma’an) -- Palestinian farmers in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus reported on Monday that Israeli settlers stole the harvest of 400 olive trees planted on their private lands.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activities in the northern West Bank told Ma’an that more than 30 Palestinian families from the Nablus-area village of Deir Sharaf entered their agricultural lands on Monday after being banned entrance since Friday by Israeli authorities.

According to Daghlas, the families “were shocked to find out that Israeli settlers had picked the olives of 400 olive trees planted in their lands,” near the illegal Israeli settlement of Shavi Shamron.

“Israeli settlers stealing olive harvests is a crime against Palestinian farmers and their properties,” Daghlas said, denouncing “the Israeli government's knowledge (of settlers' actions) and the complete silence of international society and human rights organizations.”

Daghlas also demanded compensation for the Palestinian families who lost their olive harvest.

A spokesperson for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the group responsible for implementing the Israeli government’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma’an that they were "unaware of such an instance and the matter will be investigated."

The spokesperson added that "the Palestinian farmers were harvesting their lands and were not prevented by anyone."

"It should be noted that, in coordination with representatives of the Palestinian Authority and municipal leaders of Deir Sharaf and Sebastia, it was decided that the harvest on Palestinian land near the town of Shavei Shomron be moved forward on Friday and Saturday and it continued today."

"Since the beginning of the olive harvest season COGAT has coordinated over 600 harvests and entrances for Palestinians to their land. The Civil Administration and security forces have carried out all coordination’s with the Palestinian parties to ensure that all the olive trees are harvested and every olive is collected until the last one, and we will be happy to receive more requests from the residents on this matter," the spokesperson said.

The olive harvest is an important economic and cultural event for Palestinians, with nearly half of all cultivated land in the occupied Palestinian territory planted with olive trees, according to the United Nations.

However, due to illegal settlement expansion, land confiscation, mobility restrictions due to Israel's separation wall, and various permit laws, the accessibility of Palestinian farmers to their lands has increasingly dwindled in recent years.

This year’s olive harvest season, which began early last month, has seen several incidents of attacks by Israeli settlers and Israeli government restrictions on Palestinian farmers and their lands in the occupied territory.

The Palestinian government has no jurisdiction over Israelis in the West Bank, and violent acts carried out by Israeli settlers often occur in the presence of Israeli military forces, who rarely act to protect Palestinian residents.

Israeli human rights groups Yesh Din and B’Tselem have previously condemned Israeli authorities for failing to protect Palestinians from settlers violence or investigate attacks, particularly during olive harvest season, when incidents of attacks on harvesters and their olive groves have been a near daily occurrence in past years.

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