Five human rights groups on Thursday penned an urgent letter to the IDF and the police urging security forces to do more to protect Palestinian olive trees in the West Bank.

Although the olive harvest only began on Wednesday, there have been a high number of vandalism incidents this week starting on Sunday, said B’Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli.

Her organization – along with Rabbis for Human Rights, Yesh Din, Association of Civil Rights in Israel and Hamoked – plan to send their letter to the security forces in the coming days.

On Thursday B’Tselem issued a brief report in which it said that on Sunday 25 old olive trees were destroyed in an area West of Ramallah on land belonging to the Abu Fahaida family.

Separately, in the same region, 10 masked settlers near the Nahliel settlement stoned farmers from the Beitillu village when they went to work their olive fields, according to B’Tselem. It also alleged that settlers set fire to the field. The organization provided a short, roughly shot video of the incident.

In addition, according to B’Tselem, on Tuesday Palestinian farmers from the villages of Farata and Amatin, west of Nablus, found that thieves had stolen olives from 220 trees. Also on Tuesday, according to the organization, Palestinians from the village of Qaryut discovered that more than 80 olive trees had been vandalized. And on Wednesday, the group alleges, 140 olive trees belonging to two Palestinian farmers from the Mughayir village were vandalized.

A security source said that the IDF, the Border Police and the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria were working around the clock to prevent such vandalism and incidents of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. It is also making use of undercover officers.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there was an increased police presence in Judea and Samaria to prevent vandalism and violence, particularly with respect to stone throwing and olive trees.

“We have raised the level of patrols,” he said and added that security forces had also increased their use of technology.

Police to expand unit for fighting 'price tags'

The Israel Police will expand the Judea and Samaria branch of the YAMAR (Central Investigative Unit) to fight crimes of a national character committed by both Jews and Arabs, Insp.- Gen. Yohanan Danino announced this week.

During his dedication of a new police station in the Binyamin sub-district in the West Bank, Danino said, “We will strengthen the police and law enforcement in the Judea and Samaria district and will fight against the crimes which are unique to this district with an emphasis on crimes of a national character from both sides.”

Danino also praised the decision made by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday night to strengthen the Judea and Samaria branch of the Central Investigative Unit. In September, Aharonovitch announced that police will launch a new unit to focus on “price-tag” attacks, the name given to acts of vandalism or violence perpetrated to protest government policy.

“We must show zero tolerance of terrorism, attacks on religious institutions, state symbols and incidents referred to as ‘price-tags.’ We will launch a new force that will reinforce the currently existing units fighting this phenomenon, and will bring those responsible to justice. We cannot tolerate this situation,” Aharonovitch said at the time.

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