Photo: AP
Olive trees cut down (Archive)
Photo: AP

Palestinian: Settlers uprooted 120 trees

Police launch investigation into cutting of 120 olive trees in West Bank Palestinian village. Residents claim settlers were behind crime; police say villagers may have caused damage to get compensations

The police forensics unit and investigators set out for the West Bank village of Borin Monday, after villagers claimed Jewish settlers cut down 120 olive trees in an orchard belonging to local farmers.


Police officials visited Borin in a bid to asses and document the damage caused to the orchard, and to collect testimonies from the residents.


According to one of the villagers who witnessed the incident, he spotted a group of settlers residing at an illegal outpost near Elon Moreh, situated near the orchard.


The man immediately called his fellow village members, who summoned the police.


The people of Borin said this was not the first time settlers had uprooted their olive trees.


"Last month they burnt down and destroyed about 50 acres of orchard and more than 300 trees. Earlier they also cut down hundreds of trees," Bassam Shataya of Borin told Ynet.


'IDF capable of arresting offenders'


Borin Deputy Mayor Ali Id told Ynet: "I can't believe that over the last five years the police and the IDF failed to apprehend even one suspect, after more than 5,000 trees were uprooted, more than 100 cattle heads were torched and tens of houses were looted."


Id estimated that the people responsible for the recent act are members of the neighboring illegal outpost near the Bracha settlement.


"Ever since the intifada started, the lives of the villagers became unbearable. I am not just talking about the financial damages, but the mental damage as well… we are talking about more than money here, this is about farmers who have lost their life's work," Id said.


Id is convinced that the army is capable of arresting the offenders, but that for some reason or other it refrained from doing so.


"I can't explain why the army has not arrested any settler so far. It is either because the army is afraid of confronting the settlers, or because it silently condones their doings," he said.


According to Id, none of the village members have been compensated for the damages as of yet.


Spreading phenomenon


Three cases of vandalism in Palestinian orchards were registered during the last month-and-a-half in the Samaria region, while another two took place in the vicinity of Borin over the past two weeks.


In both incidents police claimed trees were not entirely cut off, and that only branches were severed.


No suspects have been arrested so far. Police sources explained this was partly because they were met with difficulty in questioning the Palestinians. In most cases, there were no witnesses to the tree-cutting, and some were too terrified to file charges.


Regarding the current incident in Borin, police sources said they were looking into all options, but that "there is a possibility the Palestinians caused the damage in order to get compensations from the government."


'An act of terror'


Knesset Member Avsahlom Vilan (Meretz) said in response to the Borin affair that Israel should "impose closure on the West Bank until the tree-cutters are apprehended."


"This is an act of terror plain and simple. Had it been Arabs who cut down the trees, security forces would have acted a long time ago," he said.


Vilan also asked Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra to boost operations against the assailants.


Yesha Council officials harshly criticized the vandalism, saying that "if Jews did commit these acts, than they acted against human and Jewish values and harmed the settlement project in the West Bank."


However, Yesha council sources stressed that until the police establishes who was behind the tree cutting, "it would be wrong to point the finger at an entire sector."


Ali Waked contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 12.26.05, 11:17
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