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Killings drive Israelis and Palestinians ‘deeper into an abyss’, warns Türk

In the West Bank people have been forced to flee their homes.
In the West Bank people have been forced to flee their homes.

Killings drive Israelis and Palestinians ‘deeper into an abyss’, warns Türk

Human Rights

A particularly deadly week of violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’s West Bank risks spiralling out of control, UN human rights chief Volker Türk said on Friday, after a “major intensification” involving Israeli airstrikes and drone attacks.

“These latest killings and the violence, along with the inflammatory rhetoric, serve only to drive Israelis and Palestinians deeper into an abyss,” said the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as his Office warned of the “terrible impact on both Palestinians and Israelis” of the escalation, before calling for an immediate end to the bloodshed. 

Mr. Türk’s comments followed remarks by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who on Thursday “condemned all acts of violence against civilians” in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and deplored the loss of life.

Refugee camp victims

Echoing Mr. Guterres’s deep concern about an Israeli military raid on Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank on Monday that killed at least seven Palestinians, including a boy and a girl, the UN rights chief said that the use of airstrikes was “more generally associated with the conduct of armed hostilities rather than a law enforcement operation”.

According to reports, Israeli gunships were used for the first time in the area since the early 2000s to extract injured soldiers, while a long gun battle raged.

Mr. Türk added that on Wednesday evening, other reports emerged of an Israeli military drone strike near Jenin that killed three alleged Palestinian militants.

“Israel must urgently reset its policies and actions in the West Bank in line with international human rights standards, including protecting and respecting the right to life”, insisted the High Commissioner.

Following the Jenin raid, Mr. Türk’s Office said that he had been “appalled” that some Palestinians had celebrated the killing of four Israeli settlers – reportedly including a 17-year-old boy - by two armed Palestinian men near the community of Eli in the occupied West Bank. 

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Vicious circle 

Highlighting the tinderbox situation, OHCHR spokesperson Jeremy Laurence said that several Palestinian communities had reportedly been assaulted by Israeli settlers, amid “confrontations between Israeli settlers, accompanied by Israeli Security Forces, and Palestinians”.

According to UN rights office OHCHR, so far this year, Israeli Security Forces have killed at least 126 Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Among them were 21 boys and one girl. 

This compares with last year, when 155 Palestinians were killed by Israeli Security Forces in the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, representing the highest number in the past 17 years.

Data from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights indicates that 24 Israelis were killed inside Israel and the occupied West Bank last year – “the highest number of Israelis were killed last year since 2016”. 

For this violence to end, the occupation must end,” said Mr. Türk. “On all sides, the people with the political power know this and must instigate immediate steps to realize this.”