Residents of Salem said dozens of settlers from Elon Moreh on Sunday chopped down hundreds of the town's olive trees, the main source of income for 5000 residents.

"This is not the first time that settlers have cut down dozens of olive trees. Among them were trees more than 30 years old," said Adli Eshiya, a local councillor. Villagers said it was the sixth such attack this year.

Police said that at least 200 olive trees had been destroyed near Salem and that an investigation had begun.

A spokesman for Elon Moreh settlement, Benny Katsover, said he was not aware of the incident.

Farms target for attack

Settlers from the most radical enclaves in the occupied West Bank often have attacked farms since the start of a Palestinian uprising in 2000, in which settlers have often been targeted by Palestinian factions.

Settlers say that the land, which Palestinians want for a state, is theirs by biblical birthright.

More than 245,000 settlers live in the West Bank, home to 2.4 million Palestinians. The World Court has said that all of Israel's settlements on land captured in the 1967 Middle East war are illegal. Israel disputes this.