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Israeli settlers uproot dozens of olive trees, perform prayers in West Bank

Sept. 8, 2017 1:05 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 9, 2017 4:43 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli settlers burned dozens of olive trees in Nablus city in the northern occupied West Bank on Friday, while Israeli settlers entered the village of Beit Ummar in the Hebron district and carried out prayers at a tomb located there.

In the al-Sawiya area of the southern part of Nablus city, Israeli settlers from Israel’s illegal Rechelim settlement uprooted and sawed down 43 olive trees owned by a village resident, according to Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors illegal Israeli settlement activity in the northern West Bank.

Daghlas told Ma'an that the trees belonged to Jumaa Fathallah.

An Israeli police spokesperson was not immediately available for comment on the incident.

Israeli settlers routinely uproot and burn Palestinian-owned olive trees in the West Bank in an attempt to intimidate Palestinians into leaving the area, while wreaking havoc on residents’ livelihoods. So far in 2017, the UN has documented at least 85 incidents of Israeli settlers destroying or damaging Palestinian property in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, in the village of Beit Ummar in the Hebron district, dozens of Israeli settlers entered the Jala area of the village under the protection of armed Israeli forces.

Local activist Muhammad Ayyad Awad said that Israeli settlers had “raided” an area where the alleged tomb of prophet Matta (Matthew) is located, and performed prayers at the site before touring archeological sites and water springs in the area.

Awad added that Israeli forces had set up a military checkpoint at the entrance of Beit Ummar early Friday, stopping and searching vehicles and ID cards of Palestinians.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an she would look into reports on the incident in Beit Ummar.

Jewish Israelis regularly enter the Palestinian territory under armed protection to visit Jewish holy sites, which often overlap with those important to Muslims. Such visits coincide with heightened restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement.

An upwards of some 600,000 Israeli settlers reside in occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law. The international community has repeatedly called their presence and rising population the main impediment to potential peace in the region.
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