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UN: Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas amount to a 'war crime'


The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office says in a report published on Friday that the establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem amount to a war crime.

The report covers the one-year period from November 1, 2022, to October 31, 2023, when it says roughly 24,300 housing units in existing settlements in the West Bank were "advanced", the highest number in a year since monitoring began in 2017. It deplored an increase in the building of new settlement homes in recent months.

"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," UN human rights chief Volker Turk said. He presented the report to the Human Rights Council on Friday.

Reports this week that Israel plans to build 3,476 settler homes in three areas "fly in the face of international law," he said.

The report also said since October 7, 2023, 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 stated.

Turk said the creation and expansion of settlements amount to the transfer by Israel of its own population into territories that it occupies, "which amounts to a war crime under international law," his office said in a statement.

In response, Israel's mission to the UN in Geneva said Turk and his office had "once again totally ignored the deaths of 36 Israelis, including women and children and one tourist, and the 296 injured as a result of Palestinian terrorism in 2023, before and after October 7."

(With input from agencies)

(Cover:  Israeli settlement of Efrata built on the land of the Palestinian town of Al-Khader in the Bethlehem governorate in the occupied West Bank, March 6, 2024. /CFP)

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