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Growth of Israeli settlements at record high – UN

The development poses a risk to the possibility of a Palestinian state, human rights commissioner has warned

New Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank have experienced record growth, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, who stressed that they risk eliminating any practical possibility of a Palestinian state.

Commenting on Friday on a report about the issue that will be presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in late March, the senior UN official said that the establishment and continuing expansion of settlements amount to the transfer by Israel of its own civilian population into the territories that it occupies, which, he reiterated, is a war crime under international law.

“The West Bank is already in crisis. Yet, settler violence and settlement-related violations have reached shocking new levels, and risk eliminating any practical possibility of establishing a viable Palestinian State,” Turk said.

In response to the statement, Israel’s diplomatic mission in Geneva said on Friday that the report should have included the deaths of 36 Israelis recorded in 2023, accusing the Office of the High Commissioner of ignoring the losses the country sustains.

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The 16-page report, which is based on the UN’s own supervision along with other sources, records 24,300 new Israeli housing units in the occupied West Bank during a one-year period through to end-October 2023. The figure reportedly marks the highest on record since monitoring began back in 2017.

According to the document, there had been a drastic rise in the intensity, severity and regularity of both Israeli settler and state violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, particularly since October 7 last year, when the militant group Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages. Israel responded by declaring war on Hamas and launching a military operation in Gaza.

In February, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was disappointed with Israel’s plan to build over 3,300 new settlements in the occupied West Bank, adding that the potential development would be “inconsistent” with international law. The comments effectively reversed a policy pursued by the administration of former President Donald Trump.

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