Over 9,000 olive trees have been destroyed in the West Bank since August 2020, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
With the olive harvest season underway, the aid agency has called on Israel to ensure safe, timely, and adequate access for Palestinians to their olive groves in the occupied West Bank.
"For years, the ICRC has observed a seasonal peak in violence by Israeli settlers residing in certain settlements and outposts in the West Bank towards Palestinian farmers and their property in the period leading up to the olive harvest season, as well as during the harvest season itself, in October and November," said Els Debuf, head of the ICRC's mission in Jerusalem.
"Farmers also experience acts of harassment and violence that aim at preventing a successful harvest, not to mention the destruction of farming equipment or the uprooting and burning of olive trees. This is an important concern that we continue to share with the authorities in charge," she added.
Meanwhile, extremist Israeli settlers yesterday uprooted 900 olive and apricot saplings and stole olive crops in the village of Sebastia of the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, Wafa news agency reported.
In addition, settlers also uprooted 70 trees in Masafer Yatta, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron.
Israeli settler violence against Palestinians and their property is routine in the West Bank, while occupation authorities rarely take action against it.
The ICRC supports Palestinian farmers whose olive groves are located near the West Bank barrier or close to settlements and outposts throughout the season, to help them reach their land safely and on time.
Marked in October every year, the olive harvest constitutes a critical source of livelihood for thousands of Palestinian families. With more than 12 million olive trees planted across nearly half of the West Bank's agricultural land, olive oil is not only central to Palestinian food security but is also a large part of their export economy.
Moreover, olive trees are symbolic of the Palestinian attachment to their land. Drought-resistant, growing under poor soil conditions, and living and bearing fruit for thousands of years, the trees represent Palestinian resistance and resilience in the face of the Israeli occupation.