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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 February 2019

Israeli settlers raze 1,000 planted trees in West Bank village

The saplings were destroyed in the village of Burqa near the city of Nablus

Israeli soldiers stand near a Palestinian farmer waiting to reach a farm to harvest olives in an olive grove on the outskirts of the West Bank village of Yetma, 08 October 2018. EPA
Israeli soldiers stand near a Palestinian farmer waiting to reach a farm to harvest olives in an olive grove on the outskirts of the West Bank village of Yetma, 08 October 2018. EPA

Israel settlers have razed around 1,000 planted trees in a West Bank village, according to Palestinian officials.

On Sunday, a group of ultra-nationalist Jewish extremists stormed Burqa, a village located near the West Bank city of Nablus.

They proceeded to destroy hundreds of tree saplings meant to turn the village land into a nature reserve, according to Palestinian Authority official Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activity in the West Bank.

The planting of 1,000 trees was coordinated between the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and the village's local council, Mr Daghlas, who was quoted by Palestinian news agency Maan, said.

Settlers regularly target Palestinian plots, including olive trees and vines, in a bid to harass them and prevent them from harvesting on land they consider to be theirs according to the Bible. Between May and July 2018, Israeli rights group B'Tselem documented 10 attacks on Palestinian farmland that destroyed more than 2,000 trees and grapevines, as well as burning down a barley field and bales of hay.

Some leave behind graffiti in what is known as "price tag" attacks, with statements such as "there's no place we won't reach".

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Rights groups say that such violence takes place under the watch of Israeli soldiers and police, who fail to hold the settlers to account or prevent their attacks. A portion of the Palestinian farmers targeted fail to report the incidents because they lack trust in the Israeli authorities to do anything about their claims.

Such violence helps Israel's desire to expand its presence in the West Bank, rights groups say, as more Palestinian farmers are dispossessed of their land or leave because of the harassment.

More than 400,000 settlers live in the West Bank and another 150,000 live in East Jerusalem. They are protected by thousands of Israeli soldiers who serve one of the biggest militaries in the world. Palestinians fear that Israel plans to annex the entire West Bank in order to prevent a sovereign Palestinian state on its border and ensure a "Greater Israel", the area that right-wing Israelis believe to be the homeland of the Jewish people.

Updated: January 14, 2019 03:32 PM

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