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UN Human Rights Chief Raises Alarm Over Concerns of Unlawful Killings by Israel

This follows reporting of a surge of Israeli settler violence, supported by security forces, in West Bank since October.

Palestinians inspect their homes destroyed by Israeli forces following operations in the Al-Faraa camp for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank on June 10, 2024.

The United Nations’ top human rights official said Tuesday that the situation in the West Bank was “dramatically deteriorating” and that Israeli security forces and settlers had killed 528 Palestinians in the occupied territory since October, “in many cases raising serious concerns of unlawful killings.”

Volker Türk, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, made the remarks to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva at the opening of a weekslong session. He also said that he was “appalled” by the disregard for humanitarian law and human rights by parties to the conflict in Gaza, where “there has been unconscionable death and suffering,” with more than 120,000 in the enclave killed or injured since October 7, “overwhelmingly women and children.”

“We must urgently make our way back to peace,” Türk said in summary, speaking about Palestine and other conflict areas.

Türk’s warning about violence in the West Bank follows a report his office released in December documenting a surge of Israeli settler violence, supported by security forces, after October 7.

The December report cited “unlawful killings,” as per Tuesday’s comments. Israeli forces reportedly killed bystanders in clashes and used “unnecessary or disproportionate force against Palestinians involved in confrontations and clashes, resulting in unlawful killings,” the report states. Türk said at the time that the “dehumanization” of Palestinians was “very disturbing” and that Israeli settler violence and expansion of settlements must stop immediately — a call that was not heeded.

Since that time, media outlets and human rights groups have detailed regular instances of Israeli aggression and violence in the West Bank. “With the world’s focus on Gaza, West Bank settlers have used wartime chaos as cover for violence and dispossession,” The New Yorker reported in February. Amnesty International condemned violent attacks in April, arguing they were part of an apartheid system. In May, Human Rights Watch issued a report on “Israeli forces’ unlawful killings of Palestinians.”

In response to Tuesday’s speech, Israel’s permanent mission to the U.N. in Geneva accused Türk of “completely omitting the cruelty and barbarity of terrorism.” Türk did say on Tuesday that 23 Israelis had thus far been killed by Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel, including eight members of Israeli security forces, but didn’t mention Hamas’ October 7 attack, in which more than 1,100 Israelis were killed. Türk did call for Hamas to release its Israeli hostages.

Israeli forces have killed more than 37,400 people in Gaza since October 7, according to figures released by Gaza’s Health Ministry on Tuesday.

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