The scene of dozens of Israeli settlers invading Wadi Qana, an agricultural valley west of Deir Istiya town in Salfit, under the protection of Israeli soldiers has become familiar during Jewish holidays.

Over the past week, Palestinian farmers of Deir Istiya have repeatedly complained of the large number of settlers who regularly storm the valley and sometimes expel farmers from their lands by force to enjoy their picnics.

They have also complained of the harassment they face by the Israeli occupation authorities who prevent them from properly taking care of their citrus trees.

Repeated violations

Palestinian farmer Ahmad Mansour said that settlers' picnics are not the only thing that adversely affects farmlands in Wadi Qana. "We are facing many challenges because of the scarcity of water. Most of the valley's water is supplied to eight illegal (Jewish) settlements nearby," he explained.

While the Israeli occupation authorities allow settlers to enter Wadi Qana and picnic wherever they want in its farmlands, they ban any restorations that would facilitate the trips of Palestinian vacationers there, mayor of Deir Istiya Said Zidan said.

Zidan pointed out that Israel considers Wadi Qana a natural reserve and Israeli soldiers regularly secure and organize settler trips to the valley.

He affirmed that most of Wadi Qana's farms, stretching over 10,000 dunums of land, are owned by Palestinian farmers from Deir Istiya.

Fertile valley

Anti-settlement researcher Khaled Ma'ali said that Wadi Qana has many natural springs and dense forest areas, adding that it is one of the most fertile lands in Salfit and Palestine.

Ma'ali noted that Israel prevents its investment by Palestinians on the ground that it is a natural reserve, while there are eight illegally-built Israeli settlements slowly expanding at the expense of its farmlands away from the media eyes.

He stressed that cracking down on Palestinian vacationers in Wadi Qana or on farmers while they are working in their lands violates the international humanitarian law which prohibits harming civilians and their livelihoods or restricting their way of life