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'The land is ours.' (Archive photo)
Photo: Gili Sofer
Olive trees uprooted in Palestinian village
Private contractor uproots dozens of Palestinian village's olive trees before eyes of soldiers near security fence. 'If this is a security fence, how can IDF justify uprooting?' villager asks

The residents of the West Bank village of Bil'in were amazed to discover several weeks ago that dozens of olive trees had been uprooted from the village's orchards, tearing down the livelihood of dozens of families.

 

The village of Bil'in has become a symbol of the struggle against the construction of the security fence. Local residents and Israeli
and international peace activists rally near the village on a weekly basis against the erection of the fence.

 

Many acres have already been appropriated from the village in favor of the construction project, and now its residents lost their olive orchards for a project to develop infrastructure for the new neighborhoods of the nearby Jewish town of Modi'in Ilit.

 

"At the beginning of the month, while we were busy with preparations for the id al Fitr holiday, we discovered that 190 of our finest olive trees were loaded on trucks and disappeared," Muhammad Abu Rahma, one of the land owners hurt by the uprooting, told Ynet.

 

"It is true that the lands are on the other side of the fence, but according to an agreement between us and the army, we are allowed to cultivate them. Although the army puts a lot of difficulties in our way, it does not deny the fact that the land is ours," he said.

 

'Police are doing nothing about it'

 

According to Abu Rahma, the residents of the village spotted employees of one of the contractors in the new neighborhood under construction across the fence uprooting the trees.

 

He claimed that when the villagers approached the IDF on the matter, they were told that it was not army business, and that they should turn to the police.

 

"The claim that the army is not involved in the issue is infuriating, because the whole uprooting operation took place before the soldiers' eyes," he said.

 

Abu Rahma claimed that although he filed a complaint with the police, nothing has been done so far.

 

"I told the people in the army that even if we can accept their claim that the fence is built for security purposes, how can they justify the uprooting of trees? Meanwhile the army keeps telling us it's none of its business, and the police do nothing about it," he said.

 

The Defense Ministry told Ynet that "the incident in question was not related to the construction of the security fence, but was the work of a private contractor who was operating in the area. Once his activity was reported, the police intervened to stop it."

 

Police sources said in response that an investigation into the incident has been launched.

 

Efrat Weiss contributed to the report 

 

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