Palestinians claim settlers uprooted West Bank olive trees at start of harvest

More than 70 Palestinian olive trees were uprooted overnight near the northern West Bank city of Nablus in an attack blamed on Jewish settlers, local officials say.

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QARYUT, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES // More than 70 Palestinian olive trees were uprooted overnight near the northern West Bank city of Nablus in an attack blamed on Jewish settlers, local officials and an AFP journalist said.

Residents of Qaryut village 15 kilometres south of Nablus blamed the attack on settlers from the neighbouring settlement of Eli.

"More than 70 old olive trees were cut down by settlers on land near the Eli settlement," said Abdel Nasser Qaryuti, the head of the village council.

No one witnessed the attack, but he said the villagers had been the target of similar attacks from settlers in the past.

The Israeli army could not immediately confirm the incident which took place on the first day of the olive harvest, a time when Jewish settlers tend to increase attacks on Palestinian farmers and their crops.

Figures released last year by the international aid group Oxfam show there are approximately 9.5 million olive trees in the West Bank, where olive farming is a vital source of revenue for Palestinian farmers.

In a good year, the olive harvest contributes around US$100 million (Dh367m) in income to some of the poorest Palestinian communities.

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