Palestinians from the West Bank village of Sinjil, near Ramallah, claimed Wednesday that settlers from the Givat Haroeh outpost have cut 45 olive trees belonging to the village.
The Palestinians also claimed that the settlers tried to stop them from farming their land.
Camal, one of the farmers of Sinjil, told Ynet that over the past few weeks he and other villagers have been trying to coordinate farming their lands with the local District Coordination Office (DCO).
Failing to get the desired results, they asked the Rabbis for Human Rights group to intervene on their behalf: "Settlers are always threatening us and stopping up from entering our land. After considerable efforts, and after we tried to get in without coordinating it first on Independence Day, the DCO promised us that our request would be approved right after Independence Day.
The damaged field (Photo: Zechariah Sidah)
The following Thursday, said Camal, they were granted the necessary permits and went to their fields: "There were about 24 of us, about to farm a 12 acre field. The settlers cussed and yelled, but we insisted that we weren’t going anywhere."
The settlers, he conjectured, decided to teach them a lesson – "two nights ago one of the neighbors told us he saw that the trees were cut down. It turned out that 45 trees were cut."
The trees cut, he added, stretched closed to the village and were the farthest form the outpost. "They think that this will throw off suspicion, but who else could have done it? It's not the first time, either. We are used to the trees being cut down and to their threats and attempts to stop up from getting to our land. The (outpost) has barely one family, and residents from nearby settlements are backing it. There are some thugs ruling this area."
The Rabbis for Human Rights group said the tree cutting in Sinjil was indicative of the escalating attacks by settlers. "Palestinian farmers have the right to work their lands freely and return home safely, without the settlers harassing them. This act is the result of the leniency shown to settlers who break the law."
The Judea and Samaria District Police said that the Palestinians filed a complaint detailing that only six trees were damaged, adding that no arrests have been made so far and that the investigation was ongoing.
Efrat Weiss contributed to this report