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UN experts alarmed at rise in settler violence in occupied Palestinian territory

November 10, 2021 at 7:37 pm

A Palestinian man checks a vehicle vandalised by Israeli settlers in the West Bank on 9 November 2021 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

UN human rights experts expressed alarm, Wednesday, at the rising rate of violence toward Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory by Israeli settlers.

“Settler violence has always been an extremely disturbing feature of the Israeli occupation,” they said in a statement.

“But in 2021, we are witnessing the highest recorded levels of violence in recent years and more severe incidents.

“The Israeli Government and its military have done far too little to curb this violence and to protect the Palestinians under siege,” they said.

Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territory that has been occupied since 1967, Jelena Aparac, Rapporteur for the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, and other experts said in several cases, Israeli security forces and outsourced private security companies stand by and take no action to prevent violence.

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“Instead, they respond to settler-related violence by ordering Palestinians to leave the area, including Palestinian-owned land, or even actively support the settlers,” said the experts.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in the first ten months of 2021, there have been 410 attacks by settlers against Palestinians—302 against property and 108 against individuals.

Four Palestinians were killed by settlers in 2021.

In 2020, there were 358 recorded attacks. In 2019, there was a total of 335.

Directed at rural Palestinians

The settler attacks are primarily directed against rural Palestinian families living on small farms or in villages and towns in the occupied West Bank located near Israeli settlements, said the experts.

Many Palestinians reside in what is called “Area C” of the West Bank, under complete Israeli security and civil control and where Israel’s “de facto annexation stratagem” is most evident, they said.

They noted that settler violence had taken many forms, including physical violence, shooting live ammunition, torching fields and livestock, theft and vandalisation of property, trees and crops, stone-throwing and intimidation of herders and their families.

In the autumn, experts said violence is often directed at Palestinians engaged in the olive harvest.

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“Harvested olives are stolen or ruined. Olive trees are destroyed. Harvesters are attacked with rocks and pipes or threatened with weapons,” they said.

The experts cited Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization, which found 91 percent of investigations into settler attacks against Palestinians between 2005 and 2019 were closed by Israeli authorities, with no charges filed.

“The deep state support provided by Israel to the illegal settlement enterprise, including to the more than 140 settlement outposts established throughout the West Bank in defiance of even Israel’s own laws, has fuelled this coercive environment and encouraged violence,” said the experts.​​​​​​​