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Israeli troops force Palestinian family off land during olive harvest

Nov. 15, 2015 1:44 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 16, 2015 10:17 A.M.)
HEBRON (Ma’an) – Israeli troops on Sunday forced a Palestinian family off their agricultural land during an olive harvest for the second time in two days, a popular committee spokesperson told Ma'an.

Muhammad Ayyad Awad said Israeli troops forced Hammad Abdul-Hamid Sleibi and his family to leave the family's olive fields on the outskirts Beit Ummar, in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron.

Sleibi said that security guards from the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Bat Ayin first arrived to tell the family to leave. The security guards allegedly pointed their guns at the family and threatened them, telling them not to come back to the area.

The family refused to leave their land, and Israeli forces soon showed up to the scene and shot tear gas and stun grenades at the family, forcing them to flee.

An Israeli army spokesperson did not immediately respond for comment.

The incident was the second time that the Sleibi family had been forced to leave their land in the middle of an olive harvest in 48 hours.

Awad highlighted that on Friday morning, Israeli soldiers told Sleibi that in order to be allowed to access his land, he would need to obtain a special permit from Israel's Civil Administration. The forces then made Sleibi and his family leave the area.

According to Awad, Sleibi said he has, and will continue to refuse to ask the Israeli government for permission to access his own land.

While Beit Ummar's built-up areas are predominantly classified as Area B under the Oslo Accords, the majority of its surrounding land is classified Area C, under full Israeli control.

Palestinians need to obtain special permits from the Israeli government to farm or build on any Area C land.

Area C makes up around 60 percent of all of the occupied West Bank, and "includes almost all the land of the West Bank suitable for agricultural production," according to a 2014 report by the World Bank.

The report found that if the arable land in Area C were allowed to be irrigated and farmed, production could increase by $1.068 billion -- more than double the amount of foreign aid the Palestinian Authority receives from the United States.

According to a separate study by the World Bank, the agricultural sector accounts for 25 percent of the GDP in the occupied Palestinian Territory, 15 to 20 percent of which comes from olive harvesting.

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