UN calls on Israel to end support of settler attacks on West Bank

Wednesday, Apr 17, 2024

GENEVA: The United Nations human rights office on Tuesday called on Israel to halt its support of attacks by settlers in the occupied West Bank, which has seen an uptick of raids by Israel since the Hamas-led Oct 7 attack.

The call came a day after Israeli settlers shot dead two Palestinians in the West Bank on Monday, after Israeli forces killed a Palestinian teenager during a military raid.

“Israel, as the occupying power, must take all measures in its power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety in the occupied West Bank,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“This obligation includes protecting Palestinians from settler attacks, and ending unlawful use of force against Palestinians by the Israeli Security Forces.”

She added: “The Israeli Security Forces must immediately end their active participation in and support for settler attacks on Palestinians.”

Violence in the West Bank was already on the rise before Israel’s assault on Gaza, which was triggered by an Oct 7 Hamas-led attack on southern Israel. It has escalated since, with stepped-up Israeli military raids, settler violence and Palestinian street attacks.

Shamdasani described the escalating violence in the West Bank as “a matter of grave concern.”

In addition to more than 33,000 Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza, according to Hamas-run authorities, the Palestinian Health Ministry says at least 466 people in the West Bank have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers.

The current wave of settler attacks followed the discovery on Saturday by Israeli security forces of the body of an Israeli shepherd, 14-year-old Binyamin Ahimeir, in the central West Bank, who the forces said had been murdered in an anti-Israeli attack.

The situation has prompted the US and the UK to impose sanctions against named violent settlers involved in attempting to drive Palestinian communities from their land against the backdrop of the war in Gaza.

In February the UK imposed sanctions against four Israeli nationals, saying they were “extremist settlers” who had violently attacked Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The measures impose strict financial and travel restrictions on the four individuals, who Britain said were involved in “egregious abuses of human rights”.

“Extremist Israeli settlers are threatening Palestinians, often at gunpoint, and forcing them off land that is rightfully theirs,” said the UK foreign secretary, David Cameron. “This behaviour is illegal and unacceptable. Israel must also take stronger action and put a stop to settler violence. Too often, we see commitments made and undertakings given, but not followed through.”

The Foreign Office added that there had been unprecedented levels of violence by settlers in the West Bank over the past year.