The United Nations human rights chief has criticized Israel’s far-right finance minister for comments calling for the “wiping out” of the Palestinian village of Huwara, describing the comments as “an unfathomable statement of incitement to violence and hostility” . .
“The situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is a tragedy, a tragedy especially for the Palestinian people,” Volker Turk told the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council on Friday as he formally presented a report on the situation in the occupied territories.
He was referring to comments by Bezalel Smotrich, the head of a pro-settler party in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right coalition government. Smotrich made the remarks Wednesday after a spate of deadly Palestinian attacks and violence by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.
“My report finds that during the reporting period lethal force was often used by the Israeli security forces (ISF), regardless of the threat level, and sometimes even as a first step rather than as a last resort,” Turk said.
“My office has also documented several cases of apparent extrajudicial targeted executions by members of the ISF,” he said. “The report finds that 131 Palestinians were killed by ISF personnel in the past year in a law enforcement context that is outside any context of hostilities. This includes 65 people who we know were neither armed nor involved in any attacks or clashes.
“The occupation eats away at the health of both societies at every level, from childhood to old age and in every part of life. To end this violence, the occupation must end. There are people on all sides who know this.”
EU envoy calls for accountability
The European Union envoy to the Palestinians also called for accountability and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice on Friday following a rampage by Israeli settlers this week in the occupied West Bank that killed a Palestinian and set dozens of homes, shops and cars on fire. . .
Ambassador Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, head of one of the largest EU delegations visiting the West Bank, said officials wanted to see for themselves the damage Sunday’s violence had caused in and around Huwara. The frenzy followed a Palestinian gun attack that killed two Israeli brothers.
“It is imperative for us that accountability is fully ensured, that the perpetrators are brought to justice and that those who have lost property are compensated,” said Kuhn von Burgsdorff.
Local media reported that in a rare move, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday signed administrative detention orders for two suspects in the disaster after a Jerusalem court ordered police to release all seven people detained in connection with the disaster.
Amnesty International condemned the release of the suspects on Friday. It also condemns the use of administrative detention, which it says is a practice contrary to international law.
The Israeli rights organization Yesh Din found that 93 percent of investigations into settler attacks in the occupied West Bank between 2005 and 2022 were closed without charges.
Israeli Major General Yehuda Fuchs, who commands the Israeli army in the area, said on Tuesday his troops had prepared for an attempted retaliation by the settlers over the firearms attack but were surprised by the intensity of the violence. which, according to him, was committed by dozens of people. He called it a “pogrom carried out by bandits”.
The United States has also demanded that Netanyahu reject Smotrich’s call for Huwara to be cleared.
On the night of the disaster, Netanyahu urged people not to take the law into their own hands, but he did not publicly address Smotrich’s statement or respond to unusual criticism from Washington, a close ally.
Rising tensions in the West Bank
Late Thursday, Palestinian officials said Israeli forces fatally shot 15-year-old Mohammad Nidal Saleem in the back in the occupied West Bank city of Azzoun.
Ahmad Enaya, the city’s mayor, said an Israeli military vehicle drove into the city and when teenagers threw rocks at the car, soldiers responded with live fire.
The Israeli army said in a statement that soldiers fired at suspects who threw explosives at them as they searched the area for people firing fireworks at Israeli vehicles passing near Azzoun.
It said it was aware of reports of injuries but confirmed no Palestinian fatalities.
Violence in the West Bank has increased as the Israeli army has stepped up its raids, killing more than 60 Palestinians since January.
The US, Jordan and Egypt have called for calm as concerns grow over an escalation ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover in late March and early April.
In his remarks in Geneva, the UN rights chief said decades of Israeli occupation of Palestine have led to “increasing dispossession … and recurring and serious violations of their (Palestinian) rights, including the right to life.”
“No one would want to live this way or imagine that forcing people into such despair could lead to a lasting solution,” he said.