A Palestinian farmer Khitam Dar Mousa, 49, fainted when she saw the Israeli army invading her fields and uprooting olive and other trees, that her family had nurtured past 15 years.
Spread over 35 dunums (8.6 acres) near Deir Ballut village, the invading soldiers pulled out olive trees and other vegetation on Jan. 6, robbing the family and other villagers of their livelihood.
The village located in West Bank’s Salfit Governorate, 64 kilometers (40 miles) north of Jerusalem) is known for producing vegetables and fruits, which are sold in the local market.
Over 450 women are working in these fields making them 95% of the total agricultural force engaged in producing and marketing fruits and vegetables.
On Jan. 6, the Israeli army raided the village and uprooted 3,000 olive trees that take 7-8 years to grow and bear fruits. When Khitam’s husband Mohammad tried to block bulldozers ravaging his fields, he was assaulted.
“When I was going to the ambulance with my husband, the soldiers followed me. They said they will return and uproot over and over again any new trees. I replied I will cultivate the land over and over again,” Khitam told Anadolu Agency.
The soldiers also sprinkled chemicals on the remains of the trees, so they do not take roots again.
“I tried to save what I could. But they [soldiers] did not leave anything behind. These trees were like a family. My feelings were like when someone sees her son dying but still tries to save him. I put the remains of the trees on the soil, to save them but they have withered,” said Khitam.
A teacher for over more than 25 years, Khitam works on the farms after returning from school.
“Some 15 years ago, we decided to cultivate the land with various species of trees to supplement income. We dreamed to convert the barren land to heaven,” she said.
Hard work of 15 years stolen
Within three years, she kept the promise. The barren land was turned into green, with hundreds of olive, almonds, and fig trees along with other herbs and shrubs dotting the village outskirts.
“All our hard work of past 15 years has been stolen in just five hours, “said Khitam, while pointing towards barren lands, which were green just a few hours ago.
The family spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, purchasing fertilizers, insecticides, establishing an irrigation system, and erecting a metal fence to protect fields from wild boars, which are often allegedly released by Jewish settlers to attack Palestinian farmlands.
In 2020, the Israeli army asked many people to clear these farms, saying they had come upon public land. But Khitam family denies that their farm was on public land.
Holding documents and pieces of evidence of ownership of the land, Khitam knocked at the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center. The legal team of the center has started arguments in Ofer-based military court.
"This legal step means that all measures by the army have to be stopped until the court takes a decision. But the army didn’t consider this and uprooted the trees. Now, we are waiting for a clarification from the Israeli Civil Administration” said Bassam Karajeh, the head of the legal unit of Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center.
Khitam claims that she had inherited the land from her ancestors, showing the documents dating back to the Ottoman period.
“I inherited this land from my ancestors, I must keep it for my sons, and so on, I cannot leave it for the Israelis, this is our national and religious obligation,” she said.
Out of 36,000 dunums (8,895 acres) of the total area of land in the village, 15,000 dunums (3,706 acres) had been confiscated in 1948. Further 8,000 dunums (1,976 acres) were taken away to build the apartheid or separation wall. Recently, the Israeli authorities confiscated 1000 dunums (247 acres) for the expansions of settlements.
According to the Palestinian Agricultural Damage Documentation Department, the total number of trees uprooted, burned, or chemically poisoned by the settlers from 2010-2020 has reached 101,988, accounting for losses up to $47 million.
Source: This news first appeared on Anadolu Agency, along with the cover photo.