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UN experts alarmed over rise in settler attacks on Palestinians

Israeli settlers have attacked Palestinians while soldiers have looked on [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 April, 2021

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Israeli settlers have tried to intimidate and terrorise Palestinians and take over their land, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

United Nations’ human rights experts have raised alarm over a marked upsurge in settler violence in the occupied Palestinian territories, with assaults and property destruction occurring in “an atmosphere of impunity.”

The Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that, in the first three months of 2021, it had documented over 210 settler violent incidents, with one Palestinian fatality.

In 2020, it recorded 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.

“We call upon the Israeli military and police to investigate and prosecute these violent acts with vigour and resolve,” the experts said in a statement on Tuesday.

The attacks, according to the UN agency, were primarily designed to take over land but also to intimidate and terrorise Palestinians.

“They primarily target the livelihoods of rural Palestinians, vandalizing livestock, agricultural lands, trees and homes. Besides the presence and expansion of Israeli settlements, which are intended to establish illegal claims for Israeli sovereignty, settler violence is meant to make the daily lives of Palestinians untenable,” they said. 

In a separate incident last month, a Palestinian family with eight children was attacked by 10 Israeli settlers, some of them armed. The parents sustained injuries and were treated at a medical facility in Hebron, while “the children [were] left traumatized,” OCHA said.The agency’s latest “Protection of Civilians Report”, released on Thursday, also found that 52 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces across the West Bank in less than two weeks. Among them was a 14-year-old Palestinian child who lost an eye to an "Israeli sponge-tipped bullet"  while in a shop in the southern city of Hebron.

The situation is particularly dire in the H2 area in Hebron, home to some 33,000 Palestinians and a few hundred Israeli settlers. Israel exercises direct control over the 20 per cent of Hebron City known as H2, where a long-standing pattern of protracted Israeli settler violence and a heavy Israeli army presence  have resulted in large numbers of casualties

Read also: How Israel is trying to derail Palestinian elections

The OCHA experts said that Israeli army troops were not protecting Palestinians from settler violence.

“We are deeply worried by the atmosphere of impunity in which these attacks are taking place,” they said in the report.

“In many cases, the Israeli military has been present, or nearby, and has not taken sufficient steps to protect the Palestinians from this violence. This amounts to a discriminatory two-tier approach to military protection and policing in the West Bank.”

Over 70 families living in the Karm Al-Ja’buni, an area of the Sheikh Jarrah district of East Jerusalem, are under threat of forced eviction to make place for new settlements. Seven households have received eviction orders and are now required to vacate their homes by 2 May 2021.

“Such forced evictions leading to population transfers are strictly prohibited under international law,” the experts said.

full investigation into the situation in the Israeli-occupied territories was opened on March 3 by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Israel has announced it will not cooperate with the international body, claiming it does not have the authority to initiate an investigation.

The ICC ruled on January 22 it has jurisdiction over the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, paving the way for the tribunal’s prosecutor to open a war crimes investigation.

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