Israel accused of 'war crime' over bulldozing of Palestinian olive groves
Palestinian leaders have accused Israel of a war crime after military tractors destroyed around a thousand olive and almond trees belonging to local farmers on the grounds that they were illegally planted on state land.
Stunned farmers were at the targeted hillside Friday, aghast that nothing remained of their 5-10 year old trees except a few stumps and some olive tree branches. “They didn’t leave me anything,” said Sabri Manasra, who said he and a cousin had lost 800 trees. “This is damage no one will forget, not my children, or my children’s children. It’s damage to our heart. I don’t understand how people can do this.”
The uprooting operation, the largest of its kind in the southern West Bank in three years, was carried out on Thursday by what farmers said were five military vehicles on land the farmers say they own. Three years ago, Israeli authorities posted signs saying that the land belongs to the state, farmers said.
The authorities say the operation was law enforcement. “Today was carried out the eviction of an illegal invasion of around 1,000 olive trees planted illegally without permits on state land in Wadi Fukin,” the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), an Israeli governing body, told The Independent. “The eviction was carried out after the enforcement process was completed and orders were delivered.”