'Israeli settlers target Palestinians with impunity'
UN rapporteurs say settlers are attacking, damaging properties of Palestinians in occupied West Bank in a climate of impunity
Violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank has witnessed a marked increase in recent months, with reports of assaults and property destruction occurring in an “atmosphere of impunity,” UN human rights experts said on Wednesday.
"We note that, in 2020, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has documented 771 incidents of settler violence causing injury to 133 Palestinians and damaging 9,646 trees and 184 vehicles, mostly in the areas of Hebron, Jerusalem, Nablus, and Ramallah," the experts said.
"Already, during the first three months of 2021, more than 210 violent incidents involving settlers were recorded, resulting in one Palestinian fatality,” Michael Lynk, special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territory, and Balakrishnan Rajagopal, special rapporteur on adequate housing said in a joint statement.
They called on the Israeli military and police to investigate and prosecute those involved in these violent acts with vigor and resolve.
The UN experts said settler violence was predominantly "ideologically motivated" and primarily designed to "intimidate and terrorize Palestinians." to take over their land.
They said the violence and intimidation often prevent Palestinians from accessing and cultivating their land and creates a coercive environment pressuring Palestinians to stay away from certain areas or even move freely.
"They primarily target the livelihoods of rural Palestinians, vandalizing livestock, agricultural lands, trees, and homes," the experts said.
"Besides the presence and expansion of Israeli settlements, which are intended to establish illegal claims for Israeli sovereignty, settler violence is meant to make the daily lives of Palestinians untenable, “they believed.
They noted that over 70 families living in the Karm Al-Jaabuni area of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem are under threat of forcible eviction to pave way for new settlements.
Seven households have already received eviction orders and asked to vacate their homes by May 2.
"Such forced evictions leading to population transfers are strictly prohibited under international law," the experts said.
-Settler violence targeting women
The UN experts also said that settler violence targets pregnant women, young children, and older persons.
"The pattern of attacks, particularly by violent and ideologically motivated settlers, consistently confirms that the boundaries of attacks on all categories of Palestinians are being erased, “they said.
Referring to an incident in southern Hebron on March 13, they said that a Palestinian family -- parents and their eight children – were attacked by 10 Israeli settlers, some of them were armed.
The injured parents were treated at a medical facility in Hebron, and the children were left traumatized.
"We are deeply worried by the atmosphere of impunity in which these attacks are taking place," the experts said.
They said that in many cases, the Israeli military was present or was nearby, but did not take sufficient measures to protect the Palestinians, which amounts to a discriminatory two-tier approach to military protection and policing in the West Bank.
The UN experts described the situation in Hebron’s H2 area as "particularly dire". Israel exercises direct control over the 20% of Hebron City, known as H2, which is home to some 33,000 Palestinians
They said there was a long-standing pattern of protracted Israeli settler violence in this area even in presence of heavy security presence. They further said that undue restrictions on the movement of Palestinian residents have been imposed to the benefit of settlers.
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