UN condemns marked increase in ‘illegal’ Israeli settlements in West Bank amid increasing settler violence News
TrickyH, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
UN condemns marked increase in ‘illegal’ Israeli settlements in West Bank amid increasing settler violence

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk released a statement Friday condemning Israel’s latest expansion of settlements in the West Bank as well as the marked increase in “illegal” Israeli settlements over the last year, along with increasing extremist settler violence against Palestinians residing in the area.

Türk stated, “The West Bank is already in crisis. Yet, settler violence and settlement-related violations have reached shocking new levels, and risk eliminating any practical possibility of establishing a viable Palestinian State.” Türk went on to point to his February report to the UN Human Rights Council, which highlighted a significant expansion in Israeli settlements in the West Bank from November 1, 2022 to October 31, 2023. According to the report, about 24,300 new housing units were built in existing Israeli settlements, the highest the UN has recorded since 2017. The report also highlighted the increase in violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, with 1,222 Palestinians from 19 herding communities being displaced, nine Palestinians killed in gun violence incidents by settlers and 396 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces.

Türk concluded:

Israel’s actions against the Palestinian population must cease immediately. The only way forward is to find a viable political solution that finally ends the occupation, establishes an independent Palestinian state and guarantees the realization of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.

However, Israel’s Diplomatic Mission to Geneva condemned the UN report and the statements from Türk, writing:

In his report published today, the High Commissioner for Human Rights has once again totally ignored the deaths of 36 Israelis including women and children and one tourist, and the 296 injured as a result of Palestinian terrorism in 2023, before and after October 7. Human rights are universal, yet Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism are ignored by the Office time and time again.

Türk’s comments come two days after Israel approved a major increase in building permits in the West Bank. The US, one of Israel’s strongest international allies, condemned the expansion, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stating, “It has been a long-standing policy of both Democratic and Republican administrations that new settlements are counterproductive to achieving enduring peace. They are also inconsistent with international law. Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights previously released a report in late February criticizing both the “escalation of the use of lethal force in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem” and the ongoing civilian casualties as Israel continues its aerial and ground assault in Gaza. Also in February, representatives for Palestine called for the end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and a declaration that states have obligations to refrain from supporting the occupation in a hearing before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

In 2022, the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, released a report stating there are “reasonable grounds to conclude that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is now unlawful under international law due to its permanence and the Israeli Government’s de-facto annexation policies.” UN human rights investigators have also claimed the continued settlements and their expansion may be a war crime.