Press briefing notesOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Alarming, urgent situation in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem
03 November 2023
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
While much attention has been on the attacks inside Israel and the escalation of hostilities in Gaza since 7 October, the situation in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is alarming and urgent, amid the increasing and multi-layered human rights violations of Palestinians occurring there.
Since 7 October up to 2 November, 132 Palestinians, including 41 children, have been killed in the West Bank – 124 by Israeli forces and eight by settlers. Two Israeli soldiers have been killed.
Israeli forces have increasingly used military tactics and weapons in law enforcement operations, including an operation overnight involving airstrikes on Jenin refugee camp. Law enforcement is governed by international human rights law, which prohibits the intentional use of lethal force except when strictly necessary to protect life.
Settler violence, which was already at record levels, has also escalated dramatically, averaging seven attacks a day. In more than a third of these attacks, firearms were used.
We have documented that, in many of these incidents, settlers were accompanied by members of the Israeli forces, or the settlers were wearing uniforms and carrying army rifles. Along with the near total impunity for settler violence, we are concerned that armed settlers have been acting with the acquiescence and collaboration of Israeli forces and authorities.
Entire communities are being forced from their land by this violence. Since 7 October, nearly 1,000 Palestinians from at least 15 herding communities have been forced from their homes. In these circumstances, settler violence may amount to the forcible transfer of a population - a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel, as the Occupying Power, has the obligation to ensure the safety and protection of the occupied population under international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
In repeated incidents, armed settlers have given Palestinian communities ultimatums to leave their homes or be killed. In one chilling example of the intimidation communities are facing, pamphlets were reportedly left by settlers on Palestinian vehicles with threatening messages telling them to leave now or face “elimination”.
Despite hundreds of settlers being involved in this daily violence, since 7 October Israeli forces have reportedly arrested only two settlers for assaulting Palestinians and killing one Palestinian farmer.
Since 7 October, Israeli forces have arrested almost 2,000 Palestinians. We have received credible and consistent reports indicating a further increase in the ill-treatment of detainees, which in many cases could amount to torture. Two Palestinians arrested since 7 October have died in custody. Those detained are reportedly not granted due process and judicial guarantees, as required by international law.
Many communities are essentially in lockdown, with roads and checkpoints closed and their freedom of movement restricted. Some of the most vulnerable Palestinian communities have been left completely isolated, without access to essential goods and services.
The intensification of the fighting in northern Gaza has continued to add to the shocking number of casualties, which, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, has reached over 9,000 killed, among them 3,700 children, and around 23,000 injured in less than four weeks. The last few days have seen intensive strikes by Israeli forces on Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, with dozens of residential buildings destroyed. Similar strikes were also reported in other parts of Gaza, for example in Al Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, with dozens of buildings reportedly destroyed.
There has been a high number of casualties reported, as well as the reported use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in some of the most densely populated areas in Gaza.
We have serious concerns that the principles of distinction and proportionality are not being respected by both sides.
We strongly urge Palestinian armed groups to immediately stop launching inherently indiscriminate rockets into Israel. They must also immediately and unconditionally release all the hostages they hold, in serious breach of international humanitarian law. The intentional co-location of military objectives and civilians or persons hors de combat with the specific intent of trying to prevent the targeting of military objectives is a serious breach of international humanitarian law.
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