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UN condemns increase in West Bank settlement

delayed gratification

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk released a statement March 8 condemning Israel's latest expansion of settlements in the West Bank as well as the marked increase in "illegal" Israeli settlements over the last year, along with increasing extremist settler violence against Palestinians residing in the territory.

Türk stated: "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." 

Türk pointed to a February report to the UN Human Rights Council by his office, which highlighted a significant expansion in Israeli settlements in the West Bank from Nov. 1, 2022 to Oct. 31, 2023. According to the report, about 24,300 new housing units were built in existing Israeli settlements, the biggest leap the UN has recorded since monitoring began in 2017. The report also highlighted the increase in violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, with 1,222 Palestinians from 19 herding communities being displaced, nine Palestinians killed in gun violence incidents by settlers, and 396 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces.

Türk concluded:

Israel's actions against the Palestinian population must cease immediately. The only way forward is to find a viable political solution that finally ends the occupation, establishes an independent Palestinian state and guarantees the realization of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.

Israel's diplomatic mission to Geneva condemned the report and the statements from Türk, writing:

In his report published today, the High Commissioner for Human Rights has 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. Human rights are universal, yet Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism are ignored by the Office time and time again.

Türk's comments come two days after Israel approved a major increase in building permits in the West Bank. The US, one of Israel's strongest international allies, condemned the expansion, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stating: "It has been a long-standing policy of both Democratic and Republican administrations that new settlements are counterproductive to achieving enduring peace. They are also inconsistent with international law. Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion."

From Jurist, March 8. Used with permission.

Note: Under international law, all settlement structures on the West Bank are illegal. Only a minority are considered illegal by Israel