Israeli settlers steal olive harvest, attack Palestinian farmers in West Bank

12:00 Oct 15 2017 As (al)-Sawiyeh and al-Janiyeh

Settlers stealing olives on Oct. 15. Published by Maan News

Israeli settlers damaging Palestinian olive trees. Credit: Ayed Mazalom/Rabbis for Human Rights. Published by Haaretz 10/18/2017

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli settlers on Sunday stole olive pickings from dozens of trees belonging to Palestinian farmers from the occupied West Bank districts of Ramallah and Nablus.

Ghassan Daghlas, an official who monitors settlements activity in the northern West Bank, told Ma’an that dozens of Israeli settlers raided Palestinian lands in Ramallah and Nablus under protection of armed Israeli forces, and stole olives from dozens of Palestinian trees.

Daghlas told Ma'an that Israeli settlers stole the pickings of more than 65 olive trees in the Nablus-area village of al-Sawiyeh and the Ramallah-area village of al-Janiyeh.

Meanwhile, NGO Rabbis For Human Rights (RHR) released a statement saying that the settlers, from the illegal Zayit Raanan outpost, were arrested by Israeli security forces “following the swift intervention of the head of the field department of Rabbis for Human Rights, Zakaria Sadah, who informed the security forces.”

In another incident, also on Sunday, Palestinian farmers from the Nablus-area village of Qaryut were attacked by settlers. RHR said that Israeli security forces arrived at the scene and apprehended the assailants.

“It is a relatively unusual day where the security forces manage to arrest extremist Israeli lawbreakers in two incidents against West Bank Palestinians,” RHR said, adding that “violations against Palestinian farmers are not properly addressed by the Israeli security and/or law enforcement authorities.”

“The arrests on October 15th demonstrate that the Israeli security forces do indeed should they want to – have the capacity to act against hate crimes,” the statement concluded.

A spokesperson for COGAT, the agency responsible for enforcing the Israeli government’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma’an they were looking into the reports.

The Palestinian government has no jurisdiction over Israelis in the West Bank, and violent acts carried out by Israeli settlers often occur in the presence of Israeli military forces who rarely act to protect Palestinian residents.

The majority of settler attacks committed against Palestinians are met with impunity, with Israelis rarely facing consequences for such attacks.

Only 1.9 percent of complaints submitted by Palestinians against Israeli settler attacks result in a conviction, while 95.6 percent of investigations of damage to olive trees are closed due to failures of Israeli police, according to the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din.

Yesh Din, along with Israeli rights group B’Tselem, have previously condemned Israeli authorities for failing to protect Palestinians from settlers violence or investigate attacks, particularly during olive harvest season, when incidents of attacks on harvesters and their olive groves have been a near daily occurrence in past years.

Israeli Settlers Filmed Stealing Olive Harvest of West Bank Palestinian Farmers

The police detained and then released all the suspects

by Jack Khoury Oct 18, 2017 10:50 PM for Haaretz

Israel Police detained four settlers over the past week on suspicion of involvement in stealing olives from Palestinian farmers' groves in the northern Gaza Strip, but all of them were released. An NGO provided documentation that shows settlers in the act and throwing rocks, and Palestinian farmers claimed that settlers stole from and vandalized hundreds of trees.

According to the Palestinians, the thefts and vandalism occurred mainly on Palestinian land near settlements that the Palestinian can only reach by coordinating ahead of time with the the Israeli military.

Activists from Rabbis for Human Rights, a non-denominational group that says it seeks to "inform the Israeli public about human rights violations," claimed that they have documented four cases in three different locations in the past week in which settlers were caught red-handed vandalizing Palestinian olive trees

Ibrahim Salah, a resident of a village to the southwest of Nablus, said that, upon arriving at his grove next to the Havat Gilad outpost, which has a thousand olive trees, he discovered that about 450 trees had been harvested of their olives, severely damaged or cut down.

"They don't let us go there every day, and everything requires coordination, and when we come here we discover this damage," Salah said. "Why are we forbidden from accessing our groves? For us, the olive trees are the main source of income, and there's nobody to deter the settlers from doing such damage."

In one case of theft on land belonging to the Palestinian village of Burin near the Israeli Har Bracha outpost, Rabbis for Human Rights said that a settler who routinely sabotages Palestinian olive trees and sells to Israeli security forces was caught but not removed from the area.

Zacharia Asada, who is affiliated with the organization, said that Rabbis for Human Rights contacted the District Coordination and Liaison office of Israel's Civil Administration, which is responsible for coordinating Palestinians' access to their lands with the IDF, last year. Asada said that they warned the DCL of the recurring thefts in areas prone to such occurrences, which are the locations that require military coordination for the Palestinian farmers to access.

"We asked the army to secure these places and to move up the harvest," Asada said. "The administration did indeed respond to the request to move up the harvest in the Havat Gilad area, but unfortunately the place was not properly secured, so the settlers managed to steal the crop."

A military source familiar with the details said that the problem is familiar to the army. He added that in recent days, security forces had gone to places where the settlers allegedly had stolen olives, and the crop was returned a few days later to some of the owners.

Last week, police arrested a settler from the Shilo area on suspicion of involvement in stealing olives from Palestinian groves. He was released the day after the court rejected the police request to extend his detention. At the beginning of the week, three young settlers were detained in the Har Bracha area under similar circumstances, but were released within a few hours.

The Israel Police refused to comment and referred journalists to the IDF Spokesperson's Unit, which commented, "The security forces will make every effort to maintain law and order and to allow the harvest to be carried out as scheduled."

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