A top UN envoy on Wednesday bashed Israel’s ongoing settlement building on Palestinian land, saying it breached international law and made the chances of peaceful settlement ever more remote.
Addressing the UN Security Council, peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned that Israel has advanced or approved plans for some 22,000 settler homes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, these past three years. Tenders for another 8,000 units have been issued.
This month alone, Israel has despatched bulldozers to demolish or seize eight Palestinian-owned properties, resulting in 20 people being forced to move, said Mladenov, the UN’s special coordinator for Middle East peace.
“The continued demolitions and seizures of Palestinian structures, including internationally funded humanitarian projects, is … not in line with international humanitarian law and must stop.” Mladenov told diplomats in the top UN chamber in New York.
“The high number of Palestinian households in East Jerusalem with eviction cases filed against them is alarming. Israel, as an occupying power, must abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law.”
Mladenov also criticized Hamas, which runs Gaza, for firing rockets into Israel. An Israeli civilian told members about the dangers of rocket fire while living close to the Gaza border.
According to recent estimates, some 430,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, with 200,000 in East Jerusalem, across 132 settlements and 121 unofficial settlement outposts. Meanwhile, some 3 million Palestinians live throughout the West Bank.
Addressing the council, Palestinian ambassador Riyadh Mansour said that Palestinians would soon be welcoming in the New Year amid ongoing Israeli encroachments as their “ordeal is nowhere close to an end”.
“The purpose of this policy is crystal clear: Acquiring maximum Palestinian land with minimum Palestinians,” said Mansour.
“Illegal annexation of Palestinian land is not an unexpected result of the Israeli occupation, it is its overarching objective.”
Palestinians say Israeli settlement-building on their land undercuts their goal of creating their own state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip — all territory captured by Israel in a 1967 war.
Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abandoned the position that settlements in Israeli-occupied territory were “inconsistent with international law,” changing U.S. policy and further angering Palestinians.