A group of Israeli settlers, on Wednesday, uprooted 800 olive saplings planted by Palestinian farmers, in the village of Sinjel. The trees had been donated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, as part of a project to restore hundreds of acres of Palestinian farmland that had previously been damaged by Israeli settlers.
The mayor of the village of Sinjel, Ayoub Seedan, told reporters, Wednesday, that farmers from his village awoke that morning to find a group of Israeli settlers uprooting and stealing their olive tree saplings and, then, transporting them back to the illegal settlements of Givat Ariel and Maale Levona, located near the village.
The settlements were constructed on illegally seized Palestinian land, and numerous incidents have been reported of destruction and theft of land and property by the settlers, who moved into the colonies in recent years.
A Palestinian Authority official in charge of monitoring Israeli Settler activity, Ghassan Daghlas, told reporters from the Ma’an News Agency that his office had received a report of the theft of hundreds of olive trees, and filed an official complaint with the Israeli police.
The olive saplings, which were donated to the villagers by international supporters, would have supported 70 Palestinian families, all of whom have had their main source of livelihood – their land – seized, damaged or uprooted by settlers in the recent past.
Destruction of olive trees by Israeli settlers and soldiers is a common occurrence in the West Bank – close to one million olive trees have been destroyed or uprooted since the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories began.
Over 7,500 trees were destroyed in 2012 – the numbers for 2013 have not yet been released, but most estimates indicate that the number of trees destroyed in 2013 was even higher than in previous years.