Probe: W. Bank Settlers Uproot 300 Palestinian Olive Trees

Civil Administration says settlers replanted at least half the trees in Adei Ad outpost; settlers deny charge.

A Civil Administration inquiry has found that residents of the West Bank settlement outpost of Adei Ad uprooted 300 olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers about a week ago and replanted about half of them in the outpost, according to a source in the Civil Administration.

The source said the settlers planted some of the uprooted trees along the outpost's access road and some inside the community, although the regional council says the orchard had been worked by Jews for years.

"An investigation was carried out, and the Adei Ad residents' claim that the trees belong to them was refuted," the source said. "What they did was illegal."

Haaretz has learned that the Civil Administration asked Adei Ad residents to replant the trees in their original locations. The Civil Administration source said Thursday that if this instruction is not carried out by next week, "the Civil Administration will do this itself."

Dozens of mature olive trees bearing signs of having been uprooted were planted in Adei Ad, located near the settlement of Shvut Rachel.

Pinchas Wallerstein, chair of the Benjamin Regional Council, said the trees are from an olive orchard that "has been worked for years by employees and relatives of the recently deceased Yossi Schoker." Since the orchard did not bear fruit this year, he said, it was decided to uproot and replant it.

"Residents of Adei Ad asked for and received permission to use the uprooted tree to landscape their community. Any other version is utter nonsense," said Wallerstein. "That orchard was worked by Jews for years. Olives from that orchard were in last year's Olive Festival with Civil Administration permission, and the military prohibited Palestinians from coming close to that land, because they knew that Jews worked it."