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UN envoy 'alarmed' by settler attacks on olive harvest

Oct. 14, 2012 12:28 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 15, 2012 2:25 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process on Sunday called on Israel to protect the Palestinian olive harvest, which has been beset by daily settler attacks in its first weeks.

Robert Serry said he was "alarmed" at the repeated attacks on farmers and destruction of hundreds of olive trees, a crucial source of income in the West Bank.

"These acts are reprehensible and I call on the Government of Israel to bring those responsible to justice," Serry said in a statement.

"Israel must live up to its commitments under international law to protect Palestinians and their property in the occupied territory so that the olive harvest – a crucial component of Palestinian livelihoods and the Palestinian economy – can proceed unhindered and in peace."

On Thursday, two Israeli rights groups released reports criticizing Israeli authorities for failing to protect Palestinians from settler violence, or investigate attacks.

B'Tselem said on Thursday it had documented five of the attacks since Sunday, and called on the army and police to investigate each incident and complaints that soldiers did not intervene to prevent attacks.

Meanwhile, rights group Yesh Din said that of 162 attacks on Palestinian trees since 2005, only one case had led to charges.

The group said 124 files were closed on grounds of "perpetrator unknown," 16 because of "insufficient evidence" and two on ground of "absence of criminal culpability." Others are still under investigation, or information was not provided, while case files were lost for two incidents.

The failure of Israeli police to investigate the attacks is "only one aspect of its continuous and broad failure to enforce the law against ideological crimes by Israeli citizens against Palestinians in the occupied territories," the group said.
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