A UN report released on 28 December details the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, after 7 October 2023, and calls on Israel to end unlawful killings and settler violence against the Palestinian population.

The report calls for an immediate end to the use of military weapons and means during law enforcement operations, an end to arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of Palestinians, and the lifting of discriminatory movement restrictions.

The UN Human Rights Office has verified the deaths of 300 Palestinians from 7 October to 27 December 2023 – including 79 children – in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since the attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups in southern Israel. Of these, Israeli Security Forces (ISF) killed at least 291 Palestinians, settlers killed eight, and one Palestinian was killed either by the ISF or settlers. Prior to 7 October, 200 Palestinians had already been killed in the area in 2023 – the highest number in a ten-month-period since the UN began keeping records in 2005.

“The use of military tactics means and weapons in law enforcement contexts, the use of unnecessary or disproportionate force, and the enforcement of broad, arbitrary and discriminatory movement restrictions that affect Palestinians are extremely troubling”, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, reflecting on the findings of the report. The violations documented in this report repeat the pattern and nature of violations reported in the past in the context of the long-standing Israeli occupation of the West Bank. However, the intensity of the violence and repression is something that has not been seen in years”, he added.

“I call on Israel to take immediate, clear and effective steps to put an end to settler violence against the Palestinian population, to investigate all incidents of violence by settlers and Israeli Security Forces, to ensure effective protection of Palestinian communities against any form of forcible transfer, and to ensure the ability of herding communities displaced due to repeated attacks by armed settlers to return to their lands.”

The report, which covered the period from 7 October to 20 November, described a sharp increase in airstrikes as well as in incursions by armoured personnel carriers and bulldozers sent to refugee camps and other densely populated areas in the West Bank, resulting in deaths, injuries and extensive damage to civilian objects and infrastructure. These incursions, which continue to take place, have resulted in the death of at least 105 Palestinians, among them 23 children, since 7 October up to today.

In one of these instances, on 19 and 20 October, during a 30 hour-long incursion into Nur Shams Refugee Camp in Tulkarem, Israeli Forces using military weaponry and means of engagement killed 14 Palestinians, including six children, wounded at least 20 others, and arrested 10 Palestinians, the report said.

Israeli Security Forces have arrested more than 4,700 Palestinians, including about 40 journalists, in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Some were stripped naked, blindfolded and restrained for long hours with handcuffs and with their legs tied, while Israeli soldiers stepped on their heads and backs, were spat at, slammed against walls, threatened, insulted, humiliated and in some cases subjected to sexual and gender-based violence, the report describes.

In the weeks following 7 October, there has also been a sharp rise in settler attacks with an average of six incidents per day, such as shootings, burning of homes and vehicles, and uprooting of trees. In many incidents, settlers were accompanied by ISF, or were themselves wearing ISF uniforms, and carrying army rifles, the report said. The UN Human Rights Office documented multiple incidents of armed settlers attacking Palestinians harvesting their olives and forcing them to leave their land, stealing their harvest and poisoning or vandalising their olive trees, depriving many Palestinians of a vital source of income.

“The dehumanisation of Palestinians that characterises many of the settlers’ actions is very disturbing and must cease immediately. Israeli authorities should strongly censure and prevent settler violence and prosecute both its instigators and perpetrators”, said the UN Human Rights chief.

Since 7 October, Israeli authorities have imposed severe and systematic restrictions on the movement of Palestinians across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the report said. The ISF has closed almost all entrances to Palestinian villages and towns to vehicular access and disconnected Palestinian cities and towns from main roads by closing road gates and placing earth mounds or concrete roadblocks.

“The report reiterates our calls for a halt to measures that lead to the creation of a coercive environment and concerns regarding forcible transfer, in addition to the continued lack of accountability for settler and ISF violence”, said Türk.

The High Commissioner urged Israel to grant the UN Human Rights Office access to the country, adding it was ready to report similarly on the 7 October attacks.

* Read the full report here.

* Source: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights