Potential Israeli settler violence threatens 250,000 Palestinians – UN report
Nearly 250,000 Palestinians in 83 communities on the West Bank are at risk of heightened violence in so-called “price tag” revenge attacks that Israeli settlers may launch against a large-scale attempt by Israel to evacuate outposts it considers illegal, a United Nations report warned today.
“While most ‘price tag’ incidents recorded to date… resulted in Palestinian injuries and in significant property damage, the level of settler mobilization observed so far, appears to be relatively limited,” it noted, referring to the settler strategy of exacting a “price” from Palestinians in response to Israeli attempts to dismantle outposts the authorities themselves have not authorized.
“However, considering the limited scope of the removal operations implemented so far by the Israeli authorities, the level of violence that could be expected following a relatively large dismantlement operation is significantly higher,” the monthly report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) added, listing a litany of attacks against Palestinians and their property, such as olive groves.
It called on Israel to ensure that all its security forces in the field are properly instructed about their authority and obligation to enforce the law on Israeli settlers and protect Palestinian civilians from settler violence, which must no longer enjoy the impunity it now does. Israel must also allocate necessary forces to effectively patrol all areas near vulnerable communities ahead of operations against the outposts.
“Considering Israel’s obligations under international law, the Israeli authorities must adopt all the necessary measures to prevent to the greatest extent possible attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians civilians and their property, in response to the removal of settlement outposts,” it stressed, adding that this year 13 Palestinians have been injured per month on average in settler-related incidents.
The report, which cited numerous accounts from the Israeli authorities, army and media, noted that the immediate aim of the “price tag” strategy is to divert Israeli forces from the scene of an outpost evacuation into other areas requiring their intervention to contain violent incidents.
It cited Israel’s “inadequate level of law enforcement” despite its responsibility under international law, as the occupying power, to ensure public order and safety in the occupied territory, the lack of adequate accountability for settler violence, and the frequent failure of Israeli security forces to intervene and stop the attacks in real time, including to arrest suspects on the spot.
“The current lack of accountability undermines efforts to reduce the phenomenon of settler violence in the long run and infringes on the rights of the victims to justice,” it said.
The report also noted that the most significant measure Israel has so far taken on the ground has been its decision to deploy during the past three olive harvest seasons, forces with the explicit task of protecting Palestinian farmers working in the vicinity of some settlements.
“This measure has reduced the number of incidents involving physical assaults by settlers and resulting in injuries, however, it hardly affected the scope of attacks against property such as olive groves and produce,” it said.
On occupied East Jerusalem, OCHA said that while Israel has expropriated some 35 per cent of land there for Israeli settlements, only around 13 per cent is available for Palestinian building and much of that land is built-up already. In those areas where construction is possible, Israeli bureaucratic restrictions make it extremely difficult for Palestinian residents to get building permits, it added.
In a related development, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for a settlement of the Middle East conflict that espouses the internationally accepted Road Map plan for two States – Israel and Palestine – to live side by side in peace and security within fully recognized borders.
“Palestinians have waited too long for an end to occupation and a State of their own,” he said in a message to a hosts and donors meeting of the 60-year-old UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the main conduit for aid to Palestinian refugees.
“Israelis have a right to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours. More than ever, for both peoples, for the region and for the international community as a whole, we need to see two States living side by side in peace and security,” he added in the message, which was delivered by UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) Executive Secretary Bader Al-Dafa to the gathering in Jordan.