UN records 33 Israel settler attacks on Palestinians picking olives last month

Masked Israeli settlers attack Palestinian olive farmers from the village of Hawara on fields near the settlement of Yitzhar in the Israeli-occupied West Bank (AFP)

Middle East Monitor  /  November 7, 2020

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recorded 33 incidents where people believed to be Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians picking olives, or damaged their trees and produce.

In a statement, UN OCHA disclosed that these violations were documented between 7 October and 2 November, noting that 25 Palestinians were injured and 1,000 olive trees burnt or otherwise damaged, as well as the theft of large amounts of produce.

According to the statement, Israeli occupation forces intervened in clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in some of the incidents, including shooting tear gas canisters and rubber bullets, resulting in the injuries of olive harvesters.

The UN OCHA report stated that olive farmers face severe restrictions placed on them by the Israeli occupation authorities, making it extremely difficult to earn a living from their crop.

“Those who have farmland near some settlements are given only two to four days to access it throughout the entire season, which makes it hard to effectively harvest them, makes the trees less productive, and means that settlers have more opportunity to inflict damage on trees,” the statement read.

It added: “Gaining any kind of access to olive groves behind the Israeli West Bank barrier is a challenge: farmers need a special permit, and most applications are rejected for various bureaucratic reasons, such as failure to prove land ownership.”

The statement highlighted concerns over the spread of COVID-19 among farmers: “Palestinians attempting to get permission to farm their land have to visit overcrowded permit offices, leading to concerns of COVID-19 transmission.”

Meanwhile, the statement noted: “As a response, limits on the number of times farmers can access land beyond the barrier were lifted, following legal action, some 17 days into the season.”

“However, the UN, and international NGOs, are calling for the easing of more restrictions, and for the Israeli government to abide by its obligations under international law, to allow Palestinians timely and sufficient access to their olive groves, protection from violence, damage and theft, and for those who commit crimes against them to be held accountable.”