The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process has condemned attacks on olive trees by Israeli settlers. Robert Serry called on Israel to pursue those responsible for such attacks and bring them to justice.
Serry said that he was alarmed by recent reports that Israeli settlers in the West Bank have attacked Palestinian farmers repeatedly and destroyed hundreds of olive trees at the height of the harvest season. "These acts are reprehensible and I call on the Government of Israel to bring those responsible to justice," he said.
According to Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, it has logged 35 attacks targeting olive trees, grapevines and other fruit trees between September 2011 and July 2012; in 99 per cent of cases the police have closed their investigations for lack of evidence.
"The phenomenon of tree vandalism continues even more forcefully this year and targets the property and livelihood of many Palestinian families," the group said. "The police failure to enforce the law and protect Palestinian property encourages the criminals who go unpunished and are not deterred from repeating their actions."
Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told AFP that the report's results are "inaccurate and out of date", noting that "the police have stepped up activity, particularly over the past few weeks, in dealing with the incidents which have been taking place."
Rosenfeld said that there was an undercover police operation just under two weeks ago during which three police officers disguised as Palestinian shepherds were attacked [by settlers]. The officers were watching out for attacks on Palestinian farmers at the time. According to Rosenfeld, four people have been arrested in connection with that attack.
On Saturday, Israeli settlers set fire to hundreds of olive trees in the village of Quryut, which is located between Ramallah and Nablus in the occupied West Bank.