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UN Report Finds Settler Attacks Surged to an Average of 6 Per Day in West Bank

“The intensity of the violence and repression is something that has not been seen in years,” said one official.

Children stand by a Palestinian civil defense firetruck before a building that was heavily damaged during an Israeli raid in the Nur Shams camp for Palestinian refugees near the northern city of Tulkarm in the occupied West Bank, on December 26, 2023.

A United Nations report released Thursday warned that conditions in the occupied West Bank have worsened rapidly since October, with Israeli settlers and soldiers ramping up violent attacks on the Palestinian population and subjecting people across the territory to frequent abuse, movement restrictions, arbitrary detention, and “unlawful killings.”

The report by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights found that since October 7, settler attacks — including shootings and the burning of homes — have surged to an average of six per day, up from three per day previously. The report notes that in many cases, the settlers were “accompanied” by Israeli forces, wearing Israeli military uniforms, and carrying weapons supplied by the army.

Between October 7 and December 27, Israeli forces and settlers killed at least 300 Palestinians in the West Bank, according to the U.N. Israeli soldiers arrested more than 4,700 Palestinians during that period, holding many of them in so-called administrative detention without charge or trial.

Palestinian detainees have faced grotesque abuse and torture at the hands of Israeli soldiers, who have raided West Bank homes and refugee camps with increased frequency in recent weeks. Six Palestinian men died in Israeli detention between October 7 and November 20, the U.N. found. One of the men was reportedly insulin-dependent; he, along with others detained at the same time, was physically assaulted by Israeli soldiers.

The new report notes that members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have filmed and photographed themselves “abusing, degrading, and humiliating Palestinians apprehended in the West Bank, including pictures of detainees stripped naked or half-naked, blindfolded and handcuffed, and screaming in pain while physically abused and humiliated including by being forced to pose with the Israeli flag, sing songs in Hebrew or forced to dance with soldiers.”

“In one of the videos, a Palestinian man, subsequently identified through monitoring as having been arrested on 31 October, is seen kneeling, blindfolded, and with hands tied behind his back, being kicked several times in the stomach by a soldier who spits on him and insults him,” the report continues. “On 1 November, IDF reportedly stated they would investigate the abuses and that one reserve soldier had been dismissed from reserve service.”

Volker Türk, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement Thursday that “the violations documented in this report repeat the pattern and nature of violations reported in the past in the context of the longstanding Israeli occupation of the West Bank.”

“However,” Türk added, “the intensity of the violence and repression is something that has not been seen in years.”

Since October 7 — when Hamas launched a deadly attack on southern Israel and the IDF responded with a catastrophic bombing campaign — violence by Israeli settlers in the West Bank has surged. Israeli officials have tallied at least 120 hate crimes committed in the occupied West Bank, but no charges have been brought in any of the cases, the U.N. said.

The report observed that Israeli settlers — with the support of the far-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — are “taking advantage of a generally permissive environment to accelerate displacement of Palestinians from their land, raising concerns of forcible transfer seeking to create facts on the ground making the existence of a viable Palestinian state almost impossible.”

“According to Israeli organizations monitoring settlement expansion, settlers have built at least four new outposts since 7 October and at least nine new roads leading to settlements, marking a growth in illegal construction by settlers unprecedented since the second Intifada,” the U.N. report says.

Türk called settlers’ “dehumanization” of Palestinians “very disturbing” and said the attacks and illegal settlement expansions “must cease immediately.”

“Israeli authorities should strongly censure and prevent settler violence and prosecute both its instigators and perpetrators,” said Türk.

The U.N.’s findings were published as Al Jazeera reported that Israeli forces have “launched their most intense raids yet on cities in the occupied West Bank as they pressed on with one of the largest incursions in the territory since Israel’s war on Gaza began in October.”

“At least one person was killed after Israeli troops launched a coordinated overnight assault on 10 cities including Hebron, Halhul, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, el-Bireh, Jericho, and notably the center of Ramallah, which is the administrative headquarters of the Palestinian Authority,” the outlet reported. “Israeli forces used tear gas and stun grenades to clear a street and then blocked off the area, before using a ‘controlled explosion’ to enter a money exchange shop. The soldiers seized documents and arrested business owners.”

An Al Jazeera correspondent said that Israeli soldiers seized around $2.5 million in the raids.

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