Violence attributed to Israeli settlers against Palestinians living in the West Bank has worsened in recent months, amidst “an atmosphere of impunity”, UN-appointed independent rights experts said on Wednesday.
Highlighting more than 210 incidents already this year and one Palestinian fatality, the Special Rapporteurs urged the Israeli authorities to investigate thoroughly, maintaining that the Israeli military were present “in many cases”.
In southern Hebron on 13 March, they described how a Palestinian family was attacked by 10 Israeli settlers, some of them armed.
The injured parents were treated at a medical facility and their eight children were left traumatized, said the experts, including Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.
The alert follows 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, citing data gathered by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
In the joint statement, Mr. Lynk said that settler violence was “ideologically motivated and primarily designed to take over land but also to intimidate and terrorize Palestinians”.
Pregnant women, young children and older people were not off-limits, the rights expert explained, particularly in rural areas, where livestock, agricultural lands, trees and homes were targeted.
Together with the expansion of Israeli settlements, the settler violence was intended to make the daily lives of Palestinians “untenable”.
Also of continuing concern are reports that more than 70 families in the Karm Al-Ja’buni area of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem face forced eviction, to make way for new settlements, the rights experts added.
Seven households have already received eviction orders to vacate their homes by 2 May 2021.
“Such forced evictions leading to population transfers are strictly prohibited under international law”, the experts said.
They pointed to data from Israeli human rights organisation, Yesh Din, indicating that between 2005 and 2019, 91 percent of investigations in cases filed by Palestinians for ideologically motivated crimes were closed without indicting the Israeli military.
“This number is abysmal when compared to the number and nature of crimes committed by Israeli settlers and it testifies more than anything to the institutional and systematic impunity that prevails in the occupied Palestinian territory,” the experts insisted.
Under international law, occupying powers must protect the population under occupation, they continued.
Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention stipulates the protected population “shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats,” they added.
Independent rights experts are part of the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council. They work on a voluntary basis, are not staff, and do not receive any salary for their work.