Attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians have soared during the olive harvest in the occupied West Bank, raising concerns of a concerted campaign of violence against Arab farmers, a new report says.
British daily The Independent said that during the olive harvest season, which began in October, Israeli settlers increased their vandalizing attacks on Palestinian olive farms.
The report said dozens of such cases have been recorded by Israeli authorities and documented by an Israeli rights group.
Since the beginning of the harvest season, Israeli settlers have attacked olive trees of Sulaiman al-Jaafreh four times, first with a chemical plant killer, then with shears and saws, and finally with wielding shovels, it said.
According to the report, the settlers destroyed more than 100 olive trees that Jaafreh and his ancestors had farmed for over a century, completely uprooting some of the trees.
The attacks prompted Jaafreh and his family to hurriedly plant more trees, fearing that the settlers would seize the land and claim it was unoccupied, the report added.
“These attacks are unprecedented this year in terms of the frequency and the level of violence. They came in the middle of the night, sometimes with dogs,” he told The Independent.
The report cited some rights activists as saying that the attacks are believed to have been carried out under the protection of the Tel Aviv regime.
Instead of trying to prevent the attacks, the Israeli regime is using them as a “tool” to drive Palestinians from farming and pasture lands in the occupied West Bank, it added.
Last month, Israeli security forces told the regime’s Army Radio that settler attacks had seen a 60 percent rise in comparison to 2020, which was already a bad year in terms of settler violence.
Figures by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) revealed that since the beginning of the olive harvest, settlers have damaged or stolen more than 2,000 olive trees, which are a key source of income for Palestinian farmers.
The olive harvest season, which runs between October and November, is a lifeline for 80,000 to 100,000 Palestinian families in the West Bank.
According to the UN, almost half of Palestinian agricultural lands are planted with an estimated 10 million olive trees in the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.
Settlers time and again have targeted the crops, setting fire to trees and poisoning plants.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that more than 9,300 olives trees belonging to Palestinian farmers were damaged, cut or uprooted by Israeli settlers between August 2020 and August 2021.
Rights group B'Tselem has, meanwhile, reported that 1,500 trees have been uprooted or damaged since the beginning of the harvest season alone.
Palestinian farmers reportedly suffered a 55-percent decrease in yield in the olive harvest between 2019 and 2020.
More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds.
All the settlements are illegal under international law. The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.