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Settlers uproot trees near Bethlehem

Dec. 6, 2009 2:12 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 6, 2009 3:53 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Dozens of Israeli settlers uprooted more than fifty newly-planted trees on Sunday from fields in the West Bank village of Um Salamona, south of Bethlehem, Palestinian officials said.

The trees were planted last week during a campaign led by the Palestinian Authority governor of Bethlehem Abdul-Fattah Hamayil. The aim of the planting was to express solidarity with the people of Um Salamona whose lands are being confiscated by Israeli authorities to build the separation wall between it and the settlement of Efrat.

“This assault by settlers reflects their barbarism which they practice even against trees and stones that belong to the Palestinians,” Hamayil commented.

He explained that such attacks were completion of an overarching Israeli government plan to confiscate Palestinian lands to build more settlements.

The attack comes as the Israeli government claims to be enforcing a freeze on the expansion of most West Bank settlements. Hamayil said the uprooting of the trees in Um Salamona exposed this policy as an act of deception.

“Israeli claims about temporarily freezing settlement activities are nothing more than deception,” the governor said.

For his part, the head of Um Salamona’s village council, Mahmoud Rashid, explained that the governor of Bethlehem, along with Palestinian national security services chiefs, and representatives of Palestinian factions started a land reclamation campaign in the village last week. However, he added, Israeli authorities and settlers impeded the campaign through various means.
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