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Palestinian olive trees cut down in West Bank

(AFP)
Filed on November 7, 2012

NABLUS, Palestinian Territories Dozens of Palestinian olive trees were cut down in the northern West Bank by suspected rightwing attackers on Wednesday, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

“Farmers found 100 olive trees cut down with chain saws in Al-Sawiya, south of Nablus,” Ghassan Daghlas, head of the Palestinian government’s settler affairs office in the northern West Bank, told AFP.

He said “racist slogans” were found scrawled on barrels in the field.

Israeli officials confirmed the incident, with an army spokeswoman saying 50 trees had been “damaged.”

“It is important for us to say that the IDF (Israel Defence Force) regards these incidents as severe,” she said, adding that the owners of the trees were directed to the Israeli civil administration “so that they can file a complaint.”

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri confirmed that graffiti reading “price tag” was found at the scene.

“Price tag” is the euphemism for a hate crime carried out by Jewish extremists, usually targeting Palestinians and Arabs in response to state moves against settler outposts.

“There was a lot of damage to trees and there were barrels at the scene that had price tag written on them,” Samri said.

“Police and army went to the scene and the army has opened an investigation.”

The attacks often involve wanton destruction of property and have included arson attacks on cars, mosques and olive trees.

The attacks have multiplied in the past year, expanding to target Israeli peace activists as well as foreign Christians, and taking place outside of the context of government action against outposts.

Diplomats and right groups have condemned the attacks and criticised the low rate of arrest and conviction of perpetrators.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli troops after Israeli forces moved into the village of Haris, southwest of Nablus, to carry out home demolitions.

“Army forces came with two bulldozers today to demolish houses in the eastern sector of the village and clashes erupted between locals and the army,” local council head Omar Samara told AFP.

The homes affected fall within Area C of the West Bank, land that remains under full Israeli administrative and security control.

Israel regularly demolishes structures in the area built without Israeli permission, but Samara said the owners of the houses in question had an ongoing court action “contesting the demolition orders.”

The Israeli military said forces used “riot dispersal means” against Palestinians throwing stones in the village. An AFP photographer at the scene said troops were firing rubber bullets and tear gas.


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