The olive harvest season in the West Bank has begun and, as in previous years, complaints are gathering by Palestinians who claim settlers are trying to sabotage their efforts by destroying trees and stealing olives.
Palestinians are enraged that after repeated complaints, authorities have failed to punish the offenders and take appropriate measures to prevent the incidents.
The Israeli Defense Forces have promised the Palestinians that this year's olive harvest season will not be disrupted, and restraining orders to settlers have been issued as a precautionary measure. However, Palestinians have said that nothing had in fact changed and disruptions to olive picking reminiscent of previous years have resumed.
Residents of the al-Mugayyir village north-east of Ramallah claimed on Tuesday that 47 of their olive trees have been destroyed. This, after last week a settler from the Adei Ad outpost in the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council was caught harvesting olives from the village's lands, but was eventually released by police.
Residents of al-Mugayyir suspect that the same settler is responsible for Tuesday's sabotage. The residents further claimed that several weeks ago settlers ruined olives on 300 trees.
'Complaints are of no use'
Khirallah Naasan, a resident of al-Mugayyir told Ynet that the farmers who arrived at the grove on Tuesday discovered the torn down trees and placed calls to the police and the District Coordination Office. According to the farmers, representatives of the police and the DCO arrived at the scene and the farmer whose trees were destroyed even filed a complaint.
"But these complaints are of no use," Naasan said. "Only several weeks ago that same farmer filed a complaint with the police and nothing helped. We filed at least 20 complaints over the last two years to no avail." Sources at the Civil Administration confirmed that a complaint had indeed been filed.
Naasan further added that despite a commitment from IDF, police and the Civil Administration for a quiet olive harvest season no change had occurred in practice. "It seems we'll have a rough season, the same as previous years," he said.
Human rights representatives have already visited the village as part of their inspection of violations of the olive harvest season.
Sources from the Rabbis for Human Rights organization said that IDF and the police, which have promised to deal with the offenders were not doing anything to stop the sabotage. "It's impossible that in the same village, in the space of a few days, violations were made apparently by the same person and the authorities do nothing to stop it," said Zachariah Sidah.
Members of the Yesh Din organization are calling on police to hold a speedy and efficient investigation of the incident. "According to cases we have, all police inquiries in the area of similar incidents have yielded no indictments," a source from the organization said.
Efrat Weiss contributed to this report