Israeli authorities have given Palestinian farmers living in Jericho, in the occupied West Bank, an order to uproot palm trees they have grown and leave agricultural lands within 45 days.
The orders came in the form of letters sent to the farmers in an area known as “Area C” and gave the farmers an October 7 deadline to vacate their lands.
Shawkat Housheyeh, a farmer who received an official warning letter to uproot his palm trees told Reuters news agency that the measure threatened the livelihood of thousands of farm workers in the Jericho area.
He called on the Palestinian Authority to fight the Israeli threat to Palestinians working on farms in the 3,000 dunams (about 741 acres) of Dier Hijlah and al-Zour.
“I hope that the [Palestinian] Authority will announce an emergency situation because this [the orders] threatens the 2,000 to 3,000 workers who work in this area,” Housheyeh said.
Under the terms of the 1993 Oslo Accords, parts of the West Bank are under full or partial control of the Palestinian Authority.
“Area C” falls under full Israeli civil and military jurisdiction. It envelops settlements built since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967.
Walid Assaf , Palestinian minister of agriculture, recently visited Jericho and gave assurances that the Palestinian Authority would fight the Israeli authorities’ warning to farmers.
“This is a great achievement for the Palestinian farmers in the (Jordan) Valley area as it was a barren land transferred to farms,” Assaf said.
“We should build on this achievement and we will never allow it to be destroyed,” Assaf said.
In a written statement to Reuters, COGAT – a unit within the Israeli defence ministry which administers the West Bank – said palm trees in the Jericho area had been planted illegally because they were grown on land the ownership of which was still to be established.
COGAT stated that farmers on these lands were illegally drilling wells and syphoning off water from Israeli hoses.