No-one Saw, No-one Heard: 300 Palestinian Olive Trees Uprooted

Residents of nearby village blame settlers for attack and say this isn't first incident of uprooting trees.

Some 300 olive trees belonging to Palestinians were uprooted on the night between Monday and Tuesday in groves near the village of Mihmas, close to the illegal outpost of Migron. Mihmas residents blamed settlers for the attack and said this was the third time the settlers had uprooted trees in the area.

Damaged live saplings could be seen littering the ground. Some were ripped out of the soil, and other had their slim trunks broken. The destruction appeared to have been well-organized, as trees were uprooted across a wide swathe and that required the cooperation of at least several people. The assailants apparently did not resort to saws of axes, but used their bare hands.

The owners of the trees told Haaretz that although the village was not involved in any violent confrontations with the settlers, the latter were doing everything they could to disturb village life. The deputy mayor of the village, Mohammed Al Haj (Abu Hussein) told Haaretz that in May 2008, trees were uprooted in plots close to Route 60, and in October 2009, more damage was done to local olive groves. The villagers filed complaints with the police and the Civil Administration.

The Judea and Samaria police confirmed that a complaint had been filed. The Yesh Din human rights organization told Haaretz that very few investigations of the uprooting of trees have resulted in indictments.

An Israel Defense Forces patrol passes routinely by the village, and Abu Hussein said that if the army guarded the villagers like it guards the settlers, "none of it would have happened."

One of the grove owners who had trees damaged in the latest incident, Ali Aaref Mohammed, said some of the villagers owned groves on the other side of Route 60, close to Migron. "Every time we go there to take care of the trees, the settlers come down and start a confrontation. They're not letting us near the trees," he said. The financial loss to the grove owners is immense, he said. Another villager, Amran Ali Asaeid, said the damage amounted to thousands of dollars.

Abu Hussein said that every time the settlers uproot trees, the villagers will plant more. "If they uproot five acres of trees, we'll plant six," he said. "They won't break us."