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Some 200 dunams of greenhouse space in the Gaza Strip were ransacked recently by dozens of armed Palestinians and residents of Khan Yunis.

International donors had purchased the greenhouses from evacuated Gush Katif settlers for the benefit of the Palestinians.

According to Palestinian and international sources involved in running the greenhouses, the armed robbers belonged to two militias, the Assistance Committees and the Popular Army, affiliated with former Palestinian ruling party Fatah. These militias had been hired by the Palestinian Authority to guard both the ruins of the former settlements and the greenhouses, which were all under cultivation. But instead of guarding the greenhouses, the guards decided to rob them.

According to the sources, the robbers used bulldozers to break the iron supports of the buildings' frames, then swarmed over the equipment inside, which included piping and irrigation computers. The damage to the greenhouses, which are meant to provide employment for hundreds of Palestinians and increase the PA's exports, is irreparable, the sources added.

The incidents were accompanied by exchanges of fire between the militias and Palestinian policemen, in which several policemen were wounded.

However, the police were unable to halt the robbers.

The greenhouses were purchased from evacuated settlers by a consortium of international donors that included USAID, the American government's development assistance fund. They were then transferred to an economic corporation affiliated with the Palestinian Finance Ministry. In total, some 4,000 dunams are under cultivation in these greenhouses.

This is not the first time Palestinian vandals have attacked the greenhouses, but the previous incidents caused less damage.