Fifty Trees Defaced, Uprooted in Suspected West Bank Hate Crime

Three dozen trees were uprooted and 20 more despoiled in As-Sawiya, a Palestinian village that has been repeatedly subjected to acts of violence and vandalism

Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf
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Trees defaced in As-Sawiya, the West Bank, September 18, 2020.
Trees defaced in As-Sawiya, the West Bank, September 18, 2020. Credit: Yesh Din rights group.
Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf

Fifty olive trees were uprooted and additional 20 vandalized Friday in a suspected hate crime in the West Bank Palestinian village of As-Sawiya, near the settlement of Ariel.

Ahmed Nasa'a, a Jaffa resident whose family is from As-Sawiya, told Haaretz that 30 trees had been uprooted from the plot his family owns. "I myself fenced the plot. When the police arrived I told them to take fingerprints from the fence, which was also vandalized, but they didn't."

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Nasa'a estimated the damage in some 60,000 shekels. The police are yet to respond to a Haaretz query on whether an investigation had been launched into the matter.

Olive trees cut down in a suspected hate crime in As-Sawiya, the West Bank, September 18, 2020.
Olive trees cut down in a suspected hate crime in As-Sawiya, the West Bank, September 18, 2020. Credit: Yesh Din rights group.

Another 20 tress from other plots were severely defaced.   

As-Sawiya has seen its share of vandalism in the past, but residents say they have witnessed an increase in recent months. In June, 12 vehicles were vandalized and pro-Israel graffiti spray-painted on the walls of homes in the northern West Bank village.

Security camera footage from the scene showed unidentified perpetrators puncturing car tires. Graffiti in Hebrew was also found on a wall, reading “Am Yisrael chai,” or "the people of Israel live," a phrase often used as a rallying cry for Israeli nationalists.

A defaced tree trunk in As-Sawiya, September 18, 2020.
A defaced tree trunk in As-Sawiya, September 18, 2020. Credit: Yesh Din rights group.

“We got up this morning to discover that car tires in the neighborhood were damaged and that there was graffiti on the houses,” village resident Sami Halil told Haaretz at the time. “I checked my security camera and saw that whoever did this came close to the window where my children were sleeping.”

Halil recalled the 2015 firebombing of a house in the West Bank Palestinian village of Duma, which killed three members of the Dawabsheh family, including an infant.

On Monday, the main suspect in the case, Amiram Ben-Uliel, was sentenced on to three life sentences plus 17 years in prison for attempted murder and additional 10 years for arson. Two days later, an Israeli minor convicted with involvement in planning the 2015 torching was sentenced on Wednesday to three and a half years in prison. 

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