B'tselem spokeswoman blames police for failing to crack down on settler vandals.
By MATTHEW GUTMAN
Settlers hacked apart 205 olive trees belonging to Palestinians from the village of Salim on Saturday night, according to Judea and Samaria police.
It was the third incident this year of settlers destroying or significantly damaging Palestinian olive orchards.
With the Palestinian economy a shambles, more and more West Bank Palestinians have turned to subsistence farming to make ends meet. Many rely on olive orchards in the family for generations.
"We can stop this type of thing," said Shlomi Sagi, Judea and Samaria police spokesman, "but we need to have a harsher punishment meted out on the culprits."
No one has yet been arrested, he said.
Emily Amrussi, spokeswoman for the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria (Yesha Council), said "if this is true, those people must be tried and jailed."
She claimed that the Yesha Council strongly opposes the use of violence.
Mere condemnations, however, were not enough, said Sarit Michaeli, spokesman for B'tselem's Israeli Information Center on Human Rights in the Territories.
She blamed the police and IDF for failing to crack down on the settler vandals, adding that "as we see it, the central problem is the lawlessness in the West Bank, the total breakdown of law enforcement."
More often than not, Palestinians will refrain from reporting their orchards damaged, either because they fear an Israeli investigation, or out of frustration that nothing will be done on their behalf, Michaeli said.