Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Wednesday that Jewish settlers in the northern part of the occupied West Bank are avoiding attempts by the Israeli army to stop them from harvesting and destroying Palestinian orchards, by sneaking onto the lands under the cover of darkness and harvesting them before the Israeli army arrives. The Palestinians started the harvest season nearly 10 days ago, and the Israeli army was deployed in the area, reportedly in an attempt to prevent the settlers from attacking the Palestinian villagers. According to the army, this has led to fewer clashes and incidents between the settlers and the local farmers.

However, local residents of Burin village, close to Yitzhar settlement in the Nablus district, reported that settlers are trying to keep them away from their lands, and repeatedly hurl stones at them.

Jewish settlers, who know when the army will be deployed in Palestinian orchards, infiltrate the orchards and harvest most of the olives at night before the army arrives at the scene.

Israeli soldiers stationed near Havat Gilad illegal outpost, in the Nablus district, saw two Jewish settlers carrying sacks filled with olives and took them to a house in the outpost.

In two cases, the soldiers were able to locate settlers who stole Palestinian olives and reportedly returned the harvest to the Palestinians.

Haaretz reported that Israeli security sources stated that it is difficult to prevent the theft of Palestinian orchards, and that even after the settlers are caught, they do not face the consequences of their acts.

Sarit Michaeli, spokesperson for B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center in the Occupied Territories, stated that settlers are apparently following a new strategy instead of using violence, as they know when guards will be posted near the lands and would harvest them before soldiers or Palestinians arrive.

Michaeli added that in a number of areas where the Palestinians are not allowed onto their own lands except on a few allocated days, the settlers enter the lands on alternate days and harvest them.

She said that the settlers harvested and destroyed some 100 olive trees near Tormos Ayya village, near Ramallah, and that a field worker of B’Tselem saw a group of young settlers with their teacher harvesting Palestinian olives that belong to residents of Deir Al Hatab village.

In the same area, Jewish settlers harvested 400 trees before the Palestinians were able to reach their orchards.

In a number of cases, Palestinians filed complaints to the Civil Administration office, which is under the military in the occupied West Bank, but the office said that “it is not sure who owns the lands”, and that the lands are located in a “disputed area that is now before the court.’

The Civil Administration claimed that it instructed the army not to stand by while the settlers attack the residents and harvest their olives, and that the soldiers were also instructed to preserve the evidence, and to prevent the settlers from fleeing the scene.