Israel must prevent settler attacks against Palestinian villages, says UN

Palestinian children playing in Khallet Zakariya beside the Israeli settlement of Alon Shvut. IRIN/Erica Silverman

11 October 2011 – The United Nations human rights office called on Israel today to stop attacks by settlers against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank, citing a spike in violence in recent weeks resulting in serious physical injury, property loss and damage.

“More needs to be done to effectively prevent attacks by settlers against Palestinian civilians and, when they do occur, they should be properly investigated by the Israeli authorities,” The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson Rupert Colville told a news conference in Geneva, urging the Israeli Government to fulfil its obligation under international human rights and humanitarian law.

“Victims should also be appropriately compensated for their losses. With the olive harvest season beginning in a few days time, we urge the Israeli authorities to take effective measures to stop attacks by settlers in the occupied West Bank.”

Mr. Colville voiced particular concern over the village of Qusra, in the northern West Bank, which has been targeted by settlers at least six times in the past six weeks, with attacks taking various forms that are emblematic settler violence throughout the West Bank, including the torching of a mosque and the felling of hundreds of olive trees.

Two of the most recent examples included the shooting dead of a Palestinian civilian by an Israeli army soldier on 23 September, he noted. On the same day, two Palestinian minors were detained for two hours during which they were allegedly beaten up and humiliated by soldiers before being released.

In the early morning of 6 October, villagers discovered that at least 200 trees belonging to four different families had been cut down, depriving them of their main source of income. Qusra villagers have already lost access to hundreds of acres of land due to settlement expansion and erection of outposts.

A report by the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon entitled “Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan,” is due to be released in the next few days, detailing continued Israeli settlement construction and its impact on the human rights of residents including settler violence and the lack of accountability.

The report was prepared by the UN human rights office in the occupied Palestinian territory in cooperation with various other UN entities.

Last month, a group of UN rights experts urged Israeli authorities to prevent settler attacks and called for an immediate end to the demolitions of Palestinian-owned houses and other structures in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.


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