Sinjil, Ramallah District: Settlers poison all 80 of Palestinian family's 15-year-old olive trees
In the days prior to the fighting in Gaza in May 2021, many Palestinian farmers in the West Bank avoided going to their cultivated land and refrained from grazing their flocks in open areas due to the escalation in settler violence.
On 25 May 2021, Jarah Khalil (34) went to his olive grove for the first time in several weeks and discovered that settlers had poisoned all his trees. The grove, which lies about two kilometers north of the village, consisted of about 80 trees that were 15 years old.
The settlement of Shilo and the outposts of Giv’at Harel and Haro’eh were established about a kilometer from the grove.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 27 May 2021, Khalil described the poisoning of the olive trees and the resulting damage to his family:
My family owns seven dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] of land in the a-Rafeed area, about two kilometers north of the village. We had about 80 trees there, all of them 15 years old. They only recently started yielding a fair amount of fruit, and we extracted a tin of oil from every three to four trees. It’s part of our livelihood. We’re a family of five. Since my father died, I’ve been the only breadwinner because I’m the eldest.
About two months ago, a group of settlers built an outpost 50 meters away from our grove. One of them brought his whole family there and they raise livestock. During the latest round of incidents in early May, we stopped going to the land because we were afraid the settlers would attack us. On Tuesday afternoon, 25 May 2021, a farmer from the village went to his land, which is near our grove, and saw that our trees looked dry and burnt. He called me right away and I went over there quickly. When I got to the grove, I found more than half of the trees dried up and dead, and the rest drying up as well.
The state of the trees indicates deliberate poisoning, which is a method the settlers use. They destroyed all the mature olive trees, nearly 80 of them. There’s a military base overlooking the grove, about 500 meters away, but apparently no one stopped the settlers. We think the crime was carried out in two stages, the first about 20 days ago and the second 10 days ago, based on the extent of the trees’ dehydration.
I don’t think the trees will recover. Usually, with such poisoning, the toxins reach the roots and kill them, so there’s no chance that the trees will grow again. We put a lot of years of work into the groves and it all went down the drain because of the settlers’ crime. We dreamed and hoped that the trees would be another source of income to help us. Killing the trees was a cold-hearted act carried out by immoral people.
We didn’t file a complaint because there’s no reason to believe it would help. The Israeli police wouldn't take it seriously and bring the settlers to justice. But I reported the incident to the head of the village council, the Red Cross and several human rights organizations.
Maghayir al-‘Abid, Masafer Yatta: Three settlers stone shepherd and his flock
On 25 May 2021, ‘Iz a-Din Makhamreh was out grazing his family’s flock west of the community when suddenly, three settlers appeared and began throwing stones at him and at the flock. Makhamreh was hit by several stones and led the flock back home. Later that day, community residents discovered that settlers had stolen a bucket of water from the cistern on the pastureland.
The settlement outpost of Havat Ma’on was established about two kilometers northwest of the community.