[JURIST] An independent UN human rights expert on Tuesday urged [press release] Israel to prevent settlers from taking over a building in the West Bank city of Hebron. The Al-Rajabi House [background materials] is a four-story building capable of housing 40 families, and is strategically located between the illegal Israel settlement of Kiryat Arba [background materials] and the Ibrahami Mosque. In the press release, Richard Falk, an expert on the situation of human rights in Palestine, noted:
Three settler families have already moved into the building. This will likely mean more movement restrictions for Palestinians in the area, more road closures, and more harassment of Palestinian residents and human rights defenders by settlers. … The establishment of settlements in the West Bank is a clear violation of international law and contravenes article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Violence and harassment against Palestinian residents had noticeably increased after Israeli settlers began to reside illegally in the building in March 2007. After a lengthy legal battle which started with the eviction of the settlers in 2008, the sole ownership of the building was granted to the settlers by the Israeli Supreme Court in March of this year.
A number of the most recent conflicts between Israel and Palestine have raised concerns over possible human rights violations. In March UN human rights expert Christine Chanet called on Israel [JURIST report] to cease all settlement activity and immediately withdraw settlers from Palestinian territories. In December Falk urged Israel [JURIST report] to fully implement and continue to support the recent conflict-ending ceasefire agreement with Palestinians in Gaza. In November UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay pressured Israel [JURIST report] to avoid targeting civilian structures in Gaza, expressing acute concern over the surge in the number of Palestinian civilian deaths that month. In August Amnesty International called on Israel [JURIST report] to investigate its treatment of Palestinian detainees, alleging that two had been mistreated.