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UN warns of West Bank violence spiralling out of control, new settler outposts

June 24, 2023 at 11:30 am

Israeli forces raid with military vehicles in Jenin, West Bank on June 19, 2023 [Nedal Eshtayah – Anadolu Agency]

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk warned on Friday that the violence in the West Bank risks: “Spiralling out of control, fuelled by strident political rhetoric and an escalation in the use of advanced military weaponry by Israel.”

“These latest killings and the violence, along with the inflammatory rhetoric, serve only to drive Israelis and Palestinians deeper into an abyss,” announced Turk in a statement on the United Nations (UN) website.

Since Monday, the northern West Bank has witnessed an escalation resulting in the deaths of about 20 people, mostly Palestinians, in Israeli raids and attacks by Palestinians and Israeli settlers. This raises the death toll to more than 200 due to attacks, confrontations and military operations.

READ: Israel woman shot, wounded for attempting to stab Israeli soldiers in West Bank

“Israel must urgently reset its policies and actions in the occupied West Bank in line with international human rights standards, including protecting and respecting the right to life,” Volker urged.

“As the occupying power, Israel also has obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure public order and safety within the occupied Palestinian Territory. For this violence to end, the occupation must end,” he stressed.

Volker added: “On all sides, the people with the political power know this and must instigate immediate steps to realise this.”

Meanwhile, Israeli settlers have built at least seven settlement outposts on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, Anadolu Agency quoted Israeli media reporting.

Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth disclosed on Friday: “Yesterday (Thursday), at least seven illegal outposts were established in Judea and Samaria (the biblical name for the West Bank) within a few hours, with the knowledge of the political leadership and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

On Wednesday, Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich agreed to build 1,000 new units in the Eli settlement in the central West Bank: “In response to the shooting in the same settlement.”

On Tuesday, the Eli settlement witnessed a shooting attack that killed four settlers and wounded four others, carried out by two Palestinian gunmen who were shot dead by Israeli forces.

READ: Israel settlers attack Palestinian villages

The newspaper added: “Yesterday, since the early hours of the morning, five new farms were established illegally in the settlements of Givat Haroeh, Givat Harel, Immanuel (north) and Tekoa (centre), and others.”

It noted that this is in addition to the: “New (settlement) neighbourhood established by the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council between the (settlements) of Ma’aleh Levona and Eli, and the return of settlers to the Evyatar outpost.” The Israeli army previously announced the evacuation of this outpost in mid-2021 and considered it a military zone.

Last week, the Israeli government decided to give control over the approval of planning construction in West Bank settlements to Finance Minister Smotrich, an extremist supporter of the settlement movement.

According to The Times of Israel, the decision, which entered into force immediately: “Dramatically expedites and eases the process for expanding existing West Bank settlements and retroactively legalising some illegal outposts.”

“Under the terms of the amended resolution, the minister need only give his approval once, or a maximum of twice in certain circumstances, in order to advance a masterplan, meaning that the process can advance much more rapidly,” added the newspaper.

According to a statement of the Peace Now movement (a left-wing non-governmental organisation), about 700,000 settlers live in 146 settlements and 146 random outposts built on the lands of the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.

The UN considers Israeli settlement activities illegal and calls, in vain, for their cessation, warning that this threatens the basis of the two-state solution.

READ: UN Rights chief urges Israel to end violence in West Bank immediately