Israeli forces uprooted a number of trees on Sunday morning in a nature reserve in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, Palestinian sources told Ma’an news agency.
Ratij Jabour, a coordinator for the National Resistance Committee against the Wall and Settlements said that Israeli Nature and Parks Authority staff accompanied by Israeli armed forces entered the al-Daqiqa nature reserve in the Masafer Yatta area, removed barbed wire surrounding the park, and proceeded to uproot dozens of trees.
A resident of the nearby village of Tuba told Ma’an that some 30 to 35 saplings were uprooted.
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A spokesperson for the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority told Ma’an that while staff from the department might accompany Israeli forces during operations like these, their presence would in fact be on behalf of the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) – the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The nature reserve was established by locals with the help of foreign organizations in 2008, and includes 5,000 trees and eight wells built for collecting rainwater.
Israel burns 10 dunams of olive trees in Hebron pic.twitter.com/TnLI79fdge
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Jabour added that Israeli forces have threatened to evict the families in the area and demolish their homes, claiming that the area was in a military training zone for Israeli forces.
The Masafer Yatta area, also known as the South Hebron Hills, lies almost entirely in Area C, the 62 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and security control since the 1993 Oslo Accords.