An Israeli soldier checks the document of a Palestinian in the West Bank
An Israeli soldier checks the document of a Palestinian in the West Bank
Photo: Reuters
An Israeli soldier checks the document of a Palestinian in the West Bank

West Bank Palestinians' olive trees burn as U.N. urges protection for harvest

U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov calls on Israel to ensure the safety of Palestinian olive farmers amid attacks by 'by people believed or known to be Israeli settlers'

Reuters |
Published: 10.29.20 , 20:15
For many West Bank Palestinians, the olive tree is both a revered cultural emblem and an economic necessity - but it has also become a focal point of a struggle between them and Israeli settlers for a land they both claim.
More than 1,000 trees owned by Palestinian farmers have been burned or damaged in the West Bank since the harvest began three weeks ago, according to a United Nations report.
An Israeli soldier checks the document of a Palestinian in the West BankAn Israeli soldier checks the document of a Palestinian in the West Bank
An Israeli soldier checks the document of a Palestinian in the West Bank
(Photo: Reuters)
The Oct 23 report by humanitarian affairs office UNOCHA has also logged 19 disruptions "by people believed or known to be Israeli settlers," with 23 Palestinian farmers injured.
While the settlers dispute those figures, in normal years peace monitors accompany the farmers to protect the harvest. But the coronavirus pandemic has made this harder.
Some Israeli activists are still deploying. "With COVID-19 it is impossible for foreigners to come, harder for Israelis," said one activist, Guy Butavia.
Olive farmers in areas near some Israeli settlements say they face problems each year.
"When we try to reach our fields, the army protects the settlers and prevents us from accessing our olives," said Adnan Barakat, council head of Burqa village, near Ramallah.
In Burqa, Israeli settlers "stoned and physically assaulted Palestinian olive pickers on three occasions, triggering clashes", UNOCHA said.
Grass burns in an olive field after Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters during a Palestinian protest against Jewish settlementsGrass burns in an olive field after Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters during a Palestinian protest against Jewish settlements
Grass burns in an olive field after Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters during a Palestinian protest against Jewish settlements
(Photo: Reuters)
Calling on Israel to ensure the farmers' safety, U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council on Monday: "Each year, the ability of Palestinians to harvest is compromised due to access restrictions, attacks and intimidation."
Yigal Dilmoni, head of Yesha, the main settler council in the West Bank, said most of the accusations came from "dubious" sources.
"For many years now, extremist organisations... have been carrying out provocative actions and exploiting the harvest season to incite against Israeli civilians," he said.
"I live on the ground and see thousands of Palestinians harvesting their olives daily without any problem."
Around 430,000 Israeli settlers live among three million Palestinians in the West Bank, territory that Israel captured in 1967. Settlers have also been targets of Palestinian stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks.
Palestinians make their way towards an olive field in the West BankPalestinians make their way towards an olive field in the West Bank
Palestinians make their way towards an olive field in the West Bank
(Photo: Reuters)
Palestinians claim the West Bank for a future state. But Israel cites its security needs and historical ties to the region.
Tensions rose this summer over Palestinian fears that newly re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would implement pre-election promises to annex part of the West Bank.
Last week in Burqa, Reuters journalists there saw Palestinians and Israelis confronting each other. Israeli security forces intervened, firing tear gas and stun grenades towards Palestinians, who threw stones back.
A brush fire broke out amid the clashes and Israeli firing, and spread to nearby olive trees.
The Israeli military said security forces had coordinated with landowners to ensure safe picking, but were met with "rioters" hurling rocks.
Israeli settlers watch as a Palestinian man as he picks up olives near a Jewish settlement outpost near Ramallah Israeli settlers watch as a Palestinian man as he picks up olives near a Jewish settlement outpost near Ramallah
Israeli settlers watch as a Palestinian man picks olives near a Jewish settlement outpost near Ramallah
(Photo: Reuters)
"A few arson attempts were identified," a military statement said. "Troops responded with riot dispersal means... During the incident, a fire broke out and several trees were damaged."
The military said it "would not allow the olive harvest to be used in order to harm Israeli civilians or security forces."

Talkbacks for this article 0