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West Bank violence 'spiraling out of control,' UN warns

June 23, 2023

The UN's human rights commissioner said the situation in the occupied West Bank was deteriorating and was being fueled by "strident political rhetoric."

Tires burn in the West Bank city of Jenin amid a surge in tensions
The UN's human rights chief warned that tensions in the West Bank threaten to reach uncontrollable levelsImage: Majdi Mohammed/AP Photo/picture alliance

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk warned on Friday that the situation in the Israeli-occupied West Bank was having a terrible impact on people in the region and was being worsened by political rhetoric and the use of advanced weaponry. 

What did Volker Türk's statement say?

"This week's violence in the occupied West Bank risks spiraling out of control, fueled by strident political rhetoric, and an escalation in the use of advanced military weaponry by Israel," a statement issued by Türk's office said.

"These latest killings and the violence, along with the inflammatory rhetoric, serve only to drive Israelis and Palestinians deeper into an abyss," Türk said in a statement.

The UN's human rights chief added: "As the occupying power, Israel also has obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure public order and safety within the Occupied Palestinian Territory."

"Israel must urgently reset its policies and actions in the occupied West Bank in line with international human rights standards, including protecting and respecting the right to life," Türk said.

Israel, the United States and other Western countries regularly criticize how much attention the UN Human Rights Council devotes to Israel. Earlier this week, US Ambassador Michele Taylor told the council on behalf of 27 countries that they were "deeply concerned"  about the council's inquiry into Israeli policies.

Israeli settlers storm West Bank villages

A week of violence

On Wednesday, Israeli settlers marched through a Palestinian town, setting fire to cars and buildings and leaving at least one man dead, residents and officials said.

The attack came a day after Palestinian gunmen shot and killed four Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Türk called it "appalling" that such killings were celebrated by some Palestinians.

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas said earlier in the week that the shooting was retribution for a raid by Israeli forces on the Palestinian West Bank city of Jenin, where at least seven Palestinians were killed and 90 others were injured.

The Israeli military had used helicopter gunships and a drone in an operation targeting militants in Jenin, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

The European Union, the United States, Japan and several other nations have named Hamas a terrorist organization.

According to UN figures cited by Türk, Israeli Security Forces have killed at least 126 Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem this year. Without providing the figures, the UN said that 2022 saw the highest number of Israelis killed since 2016. Israeli officials have said 24 Israelis have been killed in attacks by Palestinians in 2023.

Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the Six-Day War in 1967. The Palestinians seek those territories for a future independent state. 

kb/sms (Reuters, AFP)

Four Israelis killed in West Bank