UN study deplores ‘rapid deterioration’ of rights in West Bank

GENEVA: A United Nations report released on Thursday (Dec 28) deplored what it said was a “rapid deterioration” of human rights in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and urged Israeli authorities to end violence against the Palestinian population there.

The report, released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said 300 Palestinians had been killed in the West Bank since Oct 7, the day Hamas gunmen went on a deadly rampage in southern Israel and took hostages back to Gaza.

Most of the killings happened during operations by Israeli security forces or confrontations with them.

At least 105 deaths could be linked to Israeli operations involving air strikes or other military tactics in refugee camps or other densely-populated areas. At least eight people were killed by Jewish settlers, it said.

There was no quick comment from Israeli officials on the report. Israel has said its actions in the West Bank are preemptive and aimed at curbing security threats.

“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,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said.

“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.”

OHCHR said it had also recorded mass arbitrary detentions, unlawful detentions, and cases of reported torture and other forms of ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. It said some 4,785 Palestinians had been arrested in the West Bank since Oct 7.

“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,” OHCHR said.

The West Bank had already been experiencing the highest levels of unrest in decades during the 18 months preceding the Oct 7 attack on Israel by Hamas gunmen but confrontations have risen sharply as Israel have started a ground invasion of Gaza.

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