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UN Human Rights Chief deplores new moves to expand Israeli settlements in occupied West Bank

08 March 2024

A serpentine road extends between the Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev (background) and Palestinian villages near the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, on September 8, 2023 © AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP

GENEVA (8 March 2024) – UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk today deplored Israel’s latest actions regarding the occupied West Bank, saying the drastic acceleration in settlement building is exacerbating long-standing patterns of oppression, violence and discrimination against Palestinians.

“Reports this week that Israel plans to build a further 3,476 settler homes in Maale Adumim, Efrat and Kedar fly in the face of international law,” Türk said.

In a report to the Human Rights Council, Türk said that the establishment and continuing expansion of settlements amount to the transfer by Israel of its own civilian population into the territories that it occupies, which amounts to a war crime under international law.

The size of existing Israeli settlements has expanded markedly, says the report which covers the period from 1 November 2022 to 31 October 2023. About 24,300 housing units within existing Israeli settlements in the West Bank were advanced during this period, the highest on record since monitoring began in 2017. This included approximately 9,670 units in East Jerusalem.

The report finds that the policies of the current Israeli Government appear aligned, to an unprecedented extent, with the goals of the Israeli settler movement to expand long-term control over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and to steadily integrate this occupied territory into the State of Israel.

“They also run counter to the views of a broad range of States laid out during hearings just two weeks ago at the International Court of Justice,” the High Commissioner said, referring to the hearings examining the legal consequences of Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The establishment and continuing expansion of illegal Israeli settlements are occurring alongside the displacement of Palestinians through Israeli settler and state violence, as well as through forced evictions, non-issuance of building permits, home demolitions and movement restrictions for Palestinians.

“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 said.

The report highlights the dramatic increase in the intensity, severity and regularity of Israeli settler and state violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, particularly since 7 October, 2023, which is accelerating Palestinians’ displacement from their land.

Latest UN figures show that, since 7 October, there have been 603 settler attacks against Palestinians. A total of 1,222 Palestinians from 19 herding communities have been displaced as a direct result of settler violence. Since 7 October, the UN Human Rights Office has documented nine Palestinians killed by settlers using firearms. A further 396 have been killed by Israeli security forces, and two killed by either Israeli security forces or settlers.

Since 7 October, 592 people, including 282 children, have been displaced in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, after their homes were demolished due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are almost impossible to obtain.

The report says that since 7 October, the UN Human Rights Office has documented dozens of cases of settlers wearing full or partial Israeli army uniforms and carrying army rifles, and harassing and attacking Palestinians. These developments have also further blurred the line between settler violence and state violence, including violence with the declared intent to forcibly transfer Palestinians from their land, it states.

“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,” said Türk.

To read the full report, please click here

For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Geneva
Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / [email protected] 
Liz Throssell - + 41 22 917 9296 / [email protected] 
Jeremy Laurence - +41 22 917 9383 / [email protected]

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