The Israeli army prevented 200 Israeli left-wing activists from planting trees alongside Palestinian farmers on the occasion of Tu B'Shevat, a Jewish holiday that celebrates renewal and nature that started this week.
The initiative was launched by "Rabbis for Human Rights" and "Zazim," two human rights organization, and was supposed to take place with the participation of farmers from the Palestinian village of Yasuf, which is located in the northern West Bank.
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During the harvest period, some olive trees were vandalized in land plots near the Israeli settlement of Kfar Tapuach, and the Israeli activists wanted to be present when the Palestinian farmers went back and planted trees at the spot.
According to the Israeli activists, Israel Defense Forces soldiers had told them that they were not permitted to go through when they made their way to Yasuf village, although the troops did not have a warrant.
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Louis Frankenthaler, who was on board the last bus that arrived there filled with activists from Jerusalem, told Haaretz that the soldiers had stopped the activists between Kfar Tapuach and Yasuf, and showed them a warrant proclaiming that they arrived at a closed military area. The warrant said that if activists enter the place they would get arrested. Asked why they were shown the warrant, the activists were told that it was clear they "came to disturb the quiet."
Avi Dabush, the executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights, said that the police were informed about the event about a week ago. On Thursday night, Dabush said, the army asked him for details on the event, and he provided information about where it was supposed to take place. In the morning, he found out that the very locations he shared with the military were declared closed military areas.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said that the area was closed in order to prevent frictions. According to UN data, there were 47 incidents during the olive harvesting period in the West Bank. Nine were violent actions against Palestinians. About 27 were cases of theft of olives or harvesting equipment and 11 involved trees being destroyed.