UN decries 'unfathomable' numbers killed in West Bank since October 7

AFP , Tuesday 4 Jun 2024

The UN rights chief on Tuesday demanded an end to surging violence in the occupied West Bank, saying it was "unfathomable" that more than 500 Palestinians had been killed there since October 7.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk listens to questions from journalists during a press conference at the United Nations Offices in Putrajaya on June 4, 2024. AFP

Volker Turk said at least 505 Palestinians had been killed in the West Bank by the Israeli military and by West Bank settlers since Israel's war in nearby Gaza erupted nearly eight months ago.

Palestinian officials have given a toll of at least 523.

Two dozen Israelis, including eight soldiers, have also been killed in West Bank clashes or alleged attacks by Palestinians from the West Bank during the same period, he said.

"As if the tragic events in Israel and then Gaza over the past eight months were not enough, the people of the occupied West Bank are also being subjected to day-after-day of unprecedented bloodshed," he said in a statement.

"It is unfathomable that so many lives have been taken in such a wanton fashion."

Turk insisted "the killing, destruction and widespread human rights violations are unacceptable, and must cease immediately".

"Israel must not only adopt but enforce rules of engagement that are fully in line with applicable human rights norms and standards," he said, demanding accountability for all unlawful killings.

Turk decried the "pervasive impunity for such crimes" in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, and which had seen a surge in violence even before October 7.

He pointed to a case over the weekend in which Israeli forces shot dead a teenager and critically injured another who later died near the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho in the West Bank.

He said CCTV footage indicated that the boys were shot at a distance of 70 metres while running away after throwing stones and/or Molotov cocktails towards a military post.

Israeli forces killed four more Palestinians on Monday, he added.

Turk's statement said that the Israeli military had often used lethal force "as a first resort against Palestinian protesters ... in cases where those shot clearly did not represent an imminent threat to life".

Turk warned that the violence "against the backdrop of the scale of killing and destruction continuing in Gaza, have instilled fear and insecurity among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank".

Israel's war on Gaza has killed 36,550 Palestinians and wounded more than 80,000 others, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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