Israel settlement expansion should be treated as 'war crime'
The continued building of settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank is tantamount to a war crime, two United Nations-appointed experts have said, as Israel steps up its approval of settler housing construction.
The building of housing units for Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories “tramples” on human rights law, said Special Rapporteurs Michael Lynk and Balakrishnan Rajagopal, who were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.
“The very raison d’être of the Israeli settlements in occupied territory – the creation of demographic facts on the ground to solidify a permanent presence, a consolidation of alien political control and an unlawful claim of sovereignty – tramples upon the fundamental precepts of humanitarian and human rights law,” the experts said.
The Israeli settlements "are a presumptive war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and should be treated as such by the international community,” their statement read.
In the last couple of weeks, Israeli authorities have approved plans for more than 1,700 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem, in the Givat Hamatos and Pisgat Zeev settlements.
Some 9,000 units are being developed in Atarot, and another 3,400 east of Jerusalem. In the West Bank, plans to construct 3,000 housing units are being pushed through.
There are now close to 700,000 Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the UN experts said.
Settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law, but Israel has not stopped building them. Military permits for Palestinian construction are rarely granted and structures are often demolished.