UN rights chief says Israeli settlement planners could be held 'criminally responsible'

Israel has rapidly expanded construction since the Gaza war began in October

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk says Israeil settlement plans amount to 'war crimes'. AP
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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk has joined the EU and UAE in condemning an Israeli plan for about 3,500 more settler homes in the occupied West Bank.

He said those behind the construction could be held “criminally responsible”, as the act constituted a war crime.

Mr Turk said that the expansion of settlements, something the US recently cautioned Israel against, could derail hopes of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Israel has been speeding up settlement construction in the West Bank in recent months, amid a rise in violence there and the war in Gaza that has killed more than 30,000 Palestinian civilians.

“Such transfers amount to a war crime that may engage the individual criminal responsibility of those involved,” Mr Turk said in a report to the UN Human Rights Council.

Reported Israeli plans to build another 3,476 settler homes in the West Bank colonies of Maale Adumim, Efrat and Kedar “fly in the face of international law”, he said.

Spain and France condemned the plan, which has been supported by far-right members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Israeli Minister of Settlements Orit Struck said this month that the settlement plan had been a government “promise”, and that “together we will continue to advance the settlements”.

It is illegal under international law for Israel to establish settlements in Palestinian territories occupied during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Construction there began that year, expanding rapidly in ensuing decades despite a series of internationally brokered peace talks to create a Palestinian state.

The new plans have gone ahead despite US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that any settlement expansion would be “counterproductive to reaching enduring peace” with the Palestinians.

Mr Turk said in his report that 24,300 settlement houses were built between November 2022 and October 2023.

Updated: March 09, 2024, 6:58 AM