JERUSALEM — The UN’s Middle East envoy said on Sunday that he’s alarmed by attacks blamed on Israeli settlers against Palestinian farmers and their olive trees.
Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that Israel must do more to protect Palestinians and their property in the West Bank in a statement sent to reporters.
Israel’s military had no immediate comment. The West Bank, claimed by the Palestinians for a state, is under Israeli military rule.
“I am alarmed at recent reports that Israeli settlers in the West Bank have repeatedly attacked Palestinian farmers and destroyed hundreds of their olive trees at the height of the harvest season,” Serry wrote. “These acts are reprehensible and I call on the Government of Israel to bring those responsible to justice.”
He continued: “Israel must live up to its commitments under international law to protect Palestinians and their property in the occupied territory so that the olive harvest – a crucial component of Palestinian livelihoods and the Palestinian economy – can proceed unhindered and in peace.”
An Israeli rights organization, B’Tselem, counts 450 Palestinian-owned trees either damaged or uprooted since the harvest season began on October 10.
Every year a small number of extremist Jewish settlers carry out attacks during harvest season. Most attacks occur close to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Olive groves provide crucial income for Palestinian farmers.