Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians spike to 210 so far this year, says UN

A rise in attacks comes amid a stalled peace process and political turbulence for Israelis and Palestinians

epa09124319 A Palestinian protester argues with Israeli security forces as he protests against Israeli settlement building activities on their land in the village of West Bank Yatta, near Hebron, 09 April 2021.  EPA/ABED AL HASHLAMOUN
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UN investigators on Wednesday warned of a spike in attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in recent months, saying the aggressors too often eluded justice.

Michael Lynk and other UN human rights experts described 771 such attacks by Israeli settlers last year and more than 210 recorded incidents in the first three months of this year, including one that left a Palestinian dead.

“We call upon the Israeli military and police to investigate and prosecute these violent acts with vigour and resolve,” Mr Lynk and two other investigators said in a statement.

Israeli settler attacks last year resulted in injuries to 133 Palestinians and damage to 184 vehicles and nearly 10,000 trees, mostly around the population centres of Hebron, Jerusalem, Nablus and Ramallah.

“They primarily target the livelihoods of rural Palestinians, vandalising livestock, agricultural lands, trees and homes,” the experts said.

“Besides the presence and expansion of Israeli settlements, which are intended to establish illegal claims for Israeli sovereignty, settler violence is meant to make the daily lives of Palestinians untenable.”

Last month in southern Hebron, a Palestinian couple with eight children was attacked by 10 Israeli settlers, some of them armed, in an incident that left the adults needing medical treatment and the children traumatised, the experts said.

More than 70 families in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem are currently under threat of forced eviction to make way for new settler homes, the experts added.

“We are deeply worried by the atmosphere of impunity in which these attacks are taking place,” the experts said.

“In many cases, the Israeli military has been present, or nearby, and has not taken sufficient steps to protect the Palestinians from this violence.”

The officials behind the report were Mr Lynk, a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, a special rapporteur on adequate housing and non-discrimination, and independent expert Claudia Mahler.

Israel's mission to the UN did not immediately answer The National's request for comment.

The spike in settler attacks comes as peace talks between the two sides in a decades-old struggle have ground to a halt and uncertainty on the political horizon for both peoples.

Palestinians are readying to hold long-delayed elections, while in Israel four elections in two years have not yielded a stable government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on trial for corruption.

The Palestinians seek an independent state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, all territory captured by Israel in 1967. Most countries view Israeli settlements as illegal.

Israel and some Israeli settler groups cite biblical and historical links to the land.