W. Bank Villagers: 120 Olive Trees Destroyed

Some 120 olive trees belonging to a Palestinian family were cut down in the southern Hebron Hills, the family said Friday.

The olive grove is located across from the West Bank village of Tawaneh, and belongs to a family from the village of Yata. Children from Tawaneh discovered the mutilated trees on Friday morning and informed the landowners, the Amur family. Police and Civil Administration officials arrived at the scene, as did the security coordinator for settlements in the area. The Amur family was urged to file a complaint with the Kiryat Arba police.

The police questioned the grove owners, and one of the officers photographed the trees and took a sample of one of the branches that had been cut off. Amur family members were worried that police were planning to look for fingerprints on the branch and that they would be incriminated, but the police officer, calming them down, said the branch would be used to help police identify the type of saw used to cut down the trees.

The isolated olive grove is on the northern side of Route 317, a road that the Palestinians are in effect barred from using and which links the settlements in the region: Sussia, Beit Yattir, Maon and Carmel. Maon is located a few hundred meters from the olive grove.

The Judea and Samaria district police said that in 2005 it opened 672 cases of Israeli disturbances targeting Palestinian residents and security officers in the West Bank, including violent offenses, property damage and trespassing.

The human-rights group Yesh Din documented 20 instances between March and December 2005 in which Palestinian olive groves and W. agricultural property were sabotaged, and filed complaints in those cases. At least 2,200 trees were damaged. Most had been cut down, but some have been burned, and a few hundred have been stolen from areas where the West Bank separation fence is being built.