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Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 01:33 GMT 02:33 UK
Palestinian olive branches only bring conflict
Palestinian olive grower near the Jewish settlement of Tapuach
Palestinians farm within sight of a Jewish settlement

The men picking olives in the groves around the Palestinian village of Yanoun can hear the Israeli war planes fly overhead.

This autumn, in parts of the West Bank, olive farming has become a dangerous job.

Settlers have come down from hilltop outposts to confront farmers.

They "come every day and quarrel with us," one farmer explained.

Confrontations

The small village of Yanoun is down the hill from a number of Jewish settlements, and some Palestinians have decided to leave their homes because they can no longer farm in safety.

Palestinian olive grower near the town of Yanoun
Many farmers say they can no longer grow their olives in safety
The village is safe but the farmers say that stepping anywhere beyond its edges is too dangerous.

"They come down and bother us, break into our homes, threaten us with sticks and stones, and frighten old people and children," said one farmer, Hunem.

"They burnt our generator, our water tanks are empty, they have kicked them all over," he said.

"They burnt some of our orchards and they tell us this is their land and that we should all leave, all get out."

In the nearby town of Akraba, another farmer, Hamdallah, shows me vats of olive oil he has stored in his house for safekeeping.


People will come to pick olives and amongst them there will be terrorists and people here to gather information for future terrorist attacks

Daniel Shukrun, Mayor of Tapuach
On the wall of his home there is a framed photograph of his 24-year-old son Hanni, who was killed earlier this month in a confrontation with settlers.

His cousin Fuhad was with Hanni at the time.

"The settlers came with guns and started shooting at us," Fuhad said.

"We escaped to the mountains but they were still shooting at us and they killed Hanni."

'Something has changed'

In recent weeks there have been confrontations between farmers and settlers at the edge of the Jewish settlement Tapuach.

The settlers have insisted the Palestinian farmers must stay at least 500 metres back for security reasons.

The Jewish settlement of Tapuach
Israeli settlers insist the Palestinians must keep 500m away
The mayor of the settlement, Daniel Shukrun, says that up to a year ago there was no problem.

"Something has changed here in the last year. Many settlers have been attacked, there's been infiltration into settlements and settlers have been killed," he said.

"We can not tolerate that. People will come to pick olives and amongst them there will be terrorists and people here to gather information for future terrorist attacks."

Symbol of peace?

On the road to Jerusalem - the main road through the West Bank - there are burnt olive trees on either side of the road.

A burnt olive twig provides a poignant sign of this autumn's conflict.

Usually this branch would be a symbol of peace, but right now it means anything but that.


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