Mahmoud Abbas urges his people to plant trees across the West Bank in response to Jewish settlers attacks.
Abbas condemns settler attacks during olive harvest
JERUSALEM // The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas yesterday urged his people to plant trees across the West Bank in response to Jewish settlers attacks on farmers during an olive harvest critical to many Palestinians' livelihoods. Mr Abbas described the attacks on Palestinian farmers and the uprooting of trees during an annual olive harvest as a "dangerous Israeli escalation" and urged the international community to intervene. "We condemn the attacks against our Palestinian people and the harassment by the settlers and army during the olive harvest in more than one place in the West Bank," Mr Abbas told Palestinian writers and columnists in his office in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
"I call upon our people to plant trees in our empty lands and hills in response to the continuous attacks by the settlers," he said. Mr Abbas said he would personally fund the planting of a million trees to convert the West Bank into a green area. Mr Abbas also condemned recent shootings by the Israeli army and the friction between Palestinians and Jewish groups in Jerusalem and the West Bank. "What is preventing the Israeli government from stopping these groups," he said.
Friction between Palestinians and Jewish settlers in the West Bank has been on the increase in recent weeks. Jews have complained of attacks on them and Israel's prime minister denounced what he called a "pogrom" by settlers near Nablus. On Saturday, settlers punched and kicked two news photographers and a British woman helping Palestinians pick olives in the West Bank city of Hebron and Israeli police responded by stopping the harvest.
Tensions have also risen after three Palestinians were shot dead in the West Bank over the past week. The army said they were aiming firebombs at troops. These fatalities were the first after weeks of calm in the territory Israel captured in the 1967 war. "This is a dangerous Israeli escalation that will lead the region towards more instability and deterioration and it comes at a time when the Palestinian Authority is exerting great effort to maintain security and stability," Mr Abbas said.
Settlement expansion has been the main hurdle in Israeli-Palestinian final status peace talks launched by the US president George Bush at Annapolis last year. The United States and Israel's other allies have long urged Israel to remove the half million Israelis who live on occupied land in defiance of international law. *Reuters