Bat Ayin settlers destroy hundreds of olive trees in West Bank

Bat Ayin settlers destroy hundreds of olive trees in West Bank
Valuable olive groves have come under attack from both Israeli settlers and Israeli forces, as 'price tag' vandalism continues to rise in the West Bank.
3 min read
23 January, 2019
Palestinian olive groves are often the target of settler vandalism [Getty]
Israeli settlers are reported to have levelled hundreds of olive trees belonging to Palestinians near the village of Beit Ummar near Hebron in the southern West Bank, while troops also uprooted dozens more trees in Jaba, near Jerusalem.

Anti-settlement activist Youssef Abu Marya told reporters that the settlers cut down hundreds of olive trees on land in Wad Abu al-Rish north of Beit Ummar on Tuesday. The settlers are reportedly from the nearby religious hard-line Bat Ayin settlement, known for their "price tag" attacks  - anti-Arab vandalism and hate crimes - against neighbouring Palestinian villages.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces uprooted around 60 olive trees on Tuesday evening from land in Jaba, north of Jerusalem. According to the head of the village council, soldiers destroyed fences and walls surrounding farmland near a military checkpoint in Jaba, before tearing out the trees and taking them away.

Olive trees, a valuable source of income for Palestinians in the West Bank, have been the target of price tag attacks since the Second Intifada. Settler crimes such as this are routinely treated with impunity by the Israeli forces, who rarely take action when Palestinians file complaints with the police.

A Palestinian woman reacts after Bat Ayin settlers set fire to her orchard [Getty]

The implications of destroying the trees also last for decades: "Olive trees can take up to 20 years to grow back or become productive again after an attack, and for a farmer who loses most of their trees, the impact can be devastating," Oxfam's Alun McDonald told The New Arab.

"The farmers lose their main source of income, meaning they struggle to support their families or pay for their children's education or healthcare," McDonald added. 

Furthermore, Israeli security forces often bar Palestinian olive growers from their land in order to avoid escalation with settlers.

Bat Ayin is known for its extremist tendencies and is home to the Bat Ayin Underground, a group suspected of a host of price tag attacks on local Palestinian farms, orchards, and mosques. In 2002 a bomb plot against a Palestinian girls' school was uncovered, for which Bat Ayin member Ofer Galiel was imprisoned for 13 years, and granted early release.

Palestinians have retaliated with vandalism attacks, setting fire to fields in Bat Ayin last year. In 2009, Palestinian Moussa Tayet attacked the settlement armed with an axe and a knife, killing 13-year-old settler Shlomo Nativ.

Israeli security agency Shin Bet reported last year that there had been a dramatic rise in price tag attacks, or anti-Arab vandalism and hate crimes, however, leftist Israeli groups have also been targeted.

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