Under the Oslo Agreement of 1993 the West Bank was divided into Areas A, B and C according to the governing authority of each area. The agreement was expected to end in 1998 when Israeli forces were supposed to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories. The agreement has never been implemented but the geographical divisions remain. Most Palestinians consider Oslo to have been a disaster for them.

Settlers from Bracha in Palestinian olive groveSettlers from the Bracha settlement enter Palestinian olive groves in Area C

Area A covers the larger Palestinian towns, e.g. Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus, which are under full Palestinian Authority control.

Area B covers 19 refugee camps and the rural villages e.g. Burin and Madama. Here the Israeli military retains security control while civil authority rests with the PA (Palestinian Authority).

Area C covers agricultural land surrounding the villages; this forms 62% of the total Occupied Palestinian Territories. Most consists of family-owned olive groves, some with centuries-old trees.

This is the theory. In practice the situation is less coherent as boundaries are not always clearly defined. Area C also encompasses Israeli settlements (over 120, with a combined population of over 500,000), mainly on strategic hilltops. Declared illegal by international law ever since Israel occupied the West Bank in the Six-Day War of 1967, the settlements continue to expand for land and water, helped by subsidies from the Israeli state.

Military law prevails throughout the West Bank and the army (IDF, or Israeli Defence Force) dominates every sphere of life, entering Palestinian villages with impunity day and night and imposing strict permits on olive farmers.

Israeli army in Palestinian olive grove

A typical scene: Israeli Defence Force (IDF) impels olive farmers to pack up and leave their grove


IDF approaches olive pickers