Violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank has worsened in recent months, with assaults and property destruction occurring in an atmosphere of impunity, UN human rights experts said on Wednesday.
The experts said settler violence was predominantly ideologically motivated and primarily designed to take over land but also to intimidate and terrorize Palestinians.
The violence and intimidation often prevents Palestinians from accessing and cultivating their land, and creates a coercive environment pressuring Palestinians to stay away from certain areas or even move.
“We note that, in 2020, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented 771 incidents of settler violence causing injury to 133 Palestinians and damaging 9,646 trees and 184 vehicles mostly in the areas of Hebron, Jerusalem, Nablus and Ramallah,” the experts said.
“Already, during the first three months of 2021, more than 210 settler violent incidents were recorded, with one Palestinian fatality. We call upon the Israeli military and police to investigate and prosecute these violent acts with vigor and resolve.”
In southern Hebron on March 13, they described how a Palestinian family was attacked by 10 Israeli settlers, some of them armed.
The injured parents were treated at a medical facility and their eight children were left traumatized, said the experts, including Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.
Also of continuing concern are reports that more than 70 families in the Karm Al-Ja’buni area of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem face forced eviction, to make way for new settlements, the rights experts added.
Seven households have already received eviction orders to vacate their homes by May 02, 2021.
“Such forced evictions leading to population transfers are strictly prohibited under international law,” the experts said.
They pointed to data from Israeli human rights organisation, Yesh Din, indicating that between 2005 and 2019, 91% of investigations in cases filed by Palestinians for ideologically motivated crimes were closed without indicting the Israeli military.
“This number is abysmal when compared to the number and nature of crimes committed by Israeli settlers and it testifies more than anything to the institutional and systematic impunity that prevails in the occupied Palestinian territory,” the experts insisted.
Under international law, occupying powers must protect the population under occupation, they continued.
Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention stipulates the protected population “shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats,” they added. (Source: UN News)