Trees belonging to Palestinians are seen after they were cut by Israeli forces near Tubas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank January 27, 2021. REUTERS
Palestinians on Thursday replanted hundreds of trees in the occupied West Bank, a day after Israel's army uprooted thousands of trees in the area, saying they had been illegally planted in a military zone.
Carrying spades and pickaxes, dozens of Palestinian activists and staff from the Palestinian agriculture ministry worked to plant seedlings in a valley near Khirbeit Einoun, in Tubas governorate, an AFP journalist said.
An estimated 500 trees were planted on Thursday and the operation is expected to continue for several days, agriculture ministry official Jaafar Salahat told the official Wafa news agency.
Palestinian activist Moataz Bisharat, who works to oppose Israel's occupation of the West Bank, told AFP the army had destroyed about 10,000 trees, including hundreds of olive trees, on Wednesday "on the grounds that the area is a restricted military zone".
The Israeli military branch responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank (COGAT) said it had "carried out an enforcement activity to evacuate an illegal agricultural invasion in a fire zone".
In response to a query from AFP, COGAT said "the enforcement activity was carried out in accordance with the procedures of the region's authorities according to the law applicable in Judea and Samaria", using biblical names for the West Bank.
Palestinian activist Khairi Hanoun said the tree planting was aimed at sending "a message to the occupier".
"Trees are our roots, our history, our heritage, our identity," he said.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War.
There are currently about 475,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank living in communities considered illegal by most of the international community, alongside some 2.8 million Palestinians.