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Israeli occupation in Palestine must end as violence escalates
Source: Daily Sabah
By NAJLA M. SHAHWAN
Published March 16, 2023
As the occupation is 'eating away' both Israeli and Palestinian societies, Volker Turk, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said 'the violence and tragedy in Palestine must end'
A Jewish man passes a row of Palestinian shops closed in the Old City of Jerusalem as part of a general strike, a day after 10 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli army raid in the West Bank, occupied Palestine, Feb. 23, 2023. (AP Photo)
“More than 270 Israeli settlements encroach on and fragment Palestine. The Separation Wall divides thousands of Palestinians from each other and their lands. It constitutes a major obstacle to their freedom of movement, including impairing access to health care, schools and employment – and it imposes a suffocating straitjacket on their lives,"
The current spate of deadly violence is distancing the prospect of a two-state solution to end the Israel-Palestine conflict, as the occupation is “eating away” at both societies, the U.N. rights chief told the Human Rights Council last Friday.
“For this violence to end, the occupation must end,” said the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) head Volker Turk, after presenting the council with his latest annual report on the situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories.
“More than half a century of occupation has led to widening dispossession, deepening deprivation and recurring and severe violations of the rights of Palestinian people, including the right to life,” he said.
The occupation is “eating away at the health of both societies,” on every level, from childhood to old age, and in every part of life, he continued.
Member states should play a role in “assisting all parties to find the exit ramp.”
“Within a foreseeable horizon, there must be a two-state solution, with an end to the occupation, and mutual recognition of the legitimate rights of all Israelis and Palestinians to live in dignity, peace and security,” he said.
The U.N. rights chief's words came amid a spike in fatal violence across the Occupied Palestinian Territory unfolding against a backdrop of unabated Israeli settlement expansion, evictions of Palestinians and home demolitions.
The Israeli occupation government has committed violations, grave war crimes against humanity and apartheid against the Palestinians, and it continues to enact discriminatory laws and arbitrary declarations for the expansion of illegal colonial settlements in occupied Palestine in flagrant violation of international laws.
Surge in violence
The "cycle of violence" in the West Bank has suddenly surged to levels not seen in years and the past few months marked the deadliest Israeli army operations in the occupied West Bank since 2005.
Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians during a raid last January in the north of the occupied West Bank in the deadliest single day in the territory in years. A 61-year-old woman and a male civilian were among the dead, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, and about 20 more people were seriously injured in the violence, and two more people were killed in clashes in Ramallah and East Jerusalem later. Besides, Huwara town, south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, which has long been a flash point for Israeli-Palestinian violence as it straddles one of the main roadways that Israeli settlers and Palestinians alike use, has witnessed recently unprecedented violence.
Following the killing of two Israeli brothers from the nearby Jewish settlement of Har Bracha at the weekend, angered Israeli settlers attacked the Palestinian city of Hawara in the occupied West Bank, posing a further escalation of tensions and violence in the region.
The alleged Palestinian gunman shot the two brothers at point-blank range before fleeing the scene.
The killing was in retaliation for Israel’s massive attack on Nablus a few days earlier, in which 11 Palestinians were murdered and the main shopping street was partially destroyed. Hours later, Israeli settlers conducted a series of arson attacks on Palestinian homes and private properties, including trees and cars, in an egregious systematic act of reprisal and collective punishment on Huwara and other nearby Palestinian villages.
On their part, the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) facilitated the settler attack, effectively laying siege to Huwara by closing off all the entrances of the town, in advance of the attack, permitting the entrance of hundreds of settlers by foot, and preventing the entry of medics and journalists.
During the Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians in Huwara and other nearby villages, a 37-year-old man was killed, further, two Palestinians were shot and wounded, another was stabbed and a fourth was beaten with an iron bar, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
The IOF openly accompanied the marauding settler mob, attacking Palestinians with military-grade tear gas, leaving 95 Palestinians suffocated from tear gas inhalation.
Extremist settler violence on rise
Settler violence in the occupied West Bank is not a new phenomenon. The settlements and outposts near the Palestinian village of Hawara and the city of Nablus are arguably home to some of the most hardline and dogmatic Israeli settlers.
Friction between settlers and Palestinians has been rising, as Israeli settlements spread across the occupied territory and according to reports by several human rights groups, incidents of extremist settlers violently attacking Palestinian civilians – including burning crops, beating villagers and vandalizing property – have been on the rise.
Some 700,000 Israeli Jewish settlers now live in the occupied territories, though they are considered illegal and inflammatory by most of the international community. The new Israeli ultranationalist far-right coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu includes hardline settlers in key Cabinet portfolios and has made settlement expansion a priority.
One of them, Bezalel Smotrich, the Israeli finance minister with responsibility for the freshly annexed portfolio for the Civil Administration and founder of the notorious settler organization Regavim, triggered outrage at home and abroad when he responded to last weekend's violence by saying, "I think Huwara needs to be wiped out. I think the State of Israel should do it."
Later, Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, relayed to colonial settlers at the Evyatar colonial outpost, “Our enemies need to hear a message of settlement, but also one of crushing them one by one.” He warned against settler attacks, advising instead that, “The government of Israel, the State of Israel, the IDF, the security forces – they are the ones who have to crush our enemies.”
The day after, stoked by malicious intent, approximately 500 Israeli settlers, accompanied by the IOF, infiltrated Huwara, setting fire to Palestinian homes, cars and other property, in a campaign that lasted for around eight hours.
During the Israeli attack on Huwara, the IOF fired tear gas canisters at Palestinians there, with the Palestinian Ministry of Health recording 95 cases of suffocation among Palestinians.
Notably, three Palestinian ambulances and a civil defense vehicle were also targeted, attacked, and stoned by Israeli colonial settlers, effectively preventing their access into Huwara to provide medical aid to injured Palestinians and extinguish fires.
However, after Huwara town had been on edge amid increased Israeli settlers’ attacks, Israeli IDF soldiers were filmed dancing with settlers in the town celebrating the Purim holiday last Monday night. Clashes between settlers and Palestinians were reported with a number of locals said to be wounded, four Palestinians were rushed to hospital for medical treatment after being attacked by settler rioters, who were filmed hurling rocks and smashing car windows and storefronts. Among those injured was a 2-year-old girl who was pepper sprayed by a settler who doused her family with Mace while they sat inside their car.
Mourners carry the bodies of eight Palestinians during a joint funeral in the West Bank city of Jenin, occupied Palestine, Jan. 26, 2023. (AP Photo)
The Israeli rights group Yesh Din said that IDF soldiers were at the scene during the time of the attack and did not act to stop the settlers. Later, they did use riot dispersal measures, but to scatter the Palestinians who had gathered to push back the settlers.
“The pogroms in Huwara have continued, this time as part of the settlers’ Purim holiday celebrations. This all takes place under the auspices of the government and the lack of action by law enforcement agencies,” Yesh Din said.
Furthermore, around 50-70 Israeli colonial settlers infiltrated the village of Asira al-Qibliyya, south of Nablus city, throwing stones at Palestinian homes as well as a highly flammable material at the entrance of one of the houses, partially damaging the property.
Although 2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2005, the scale of crimes committed by the IOF and the colonial settlers since the beginning of 2023 suggests that it is set to be even worse.
The year 2023, as of the time of writing, has already seen the killing of more than 70 Palestinians by the IOF and the violent raids are going on systematically in Nablus and Jenin with no sign of any let up in the violence, ahead of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover festival.
At the council‘s interactive dialogue with U.N. High Commissioner Volker Turk, he described the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as a tragedy and stressed that the only way to end this tragedy is to end the occupation.
“A tragedy, above all for the Palestinian people. Nobody could wish to live this way – or imagine that forcing people into conditions of such desperation can lead to an enduring solution,” warned Turk, pointing out that 2022 saw the highest number of Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation forces in the past 17 years and that this death toll has further, and sharply, deteriorated in the first weeks of 2023.
Adding that lethal force has been frequently employed by the Israeli forces, regardless of the level of threat – and, at times, even as an initial measure, rather than as last resort – his office has also documented several cases of apparent extrajudicial, targeted killings of Palestinians by members of the Israeli forces.
“Collective punishments, which are prohibited by international law, are increasingly imposed on Palestinians by Israel. The blockade of Gaza, which restricts 2 million people to that territory, has been in effect for 16 years,” he said. “Currently, 967 Palestinians are being held in what is termed 'administrative detention,' in which people are arbitrarily detained for often lengthy periods without charge or trial. This is the highest number in 15 years.”
“More than 270 Israeli settlements encroach on and fragment Palestine. The Separation Wall divides thousands of Palestinians from each other and their lands. It constitutes a major obstacle to their freedom of movement, including impairing access to health care, schools and employment – and it imposes a suffocating straitjacket on their lives," he added.
Turk also stressed that for the violence and tragedy in Palestine to end, “the occupation must end.”
Palestinians have been suffering the tragedy of the illegal Israeli occupation for more than 55 years and it is time for regional states and the wider international community to intervene with firm steps and unconditionally bring to an end Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territory and dismantle Israel’s settler colonial apartheid regime, ensuring that the exercise of the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people as a whole, is fulfilled.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Palestinian author, researcher and freelance journalist; recipient of two prizes from the Palestinian Union of Writers
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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