Middle East

Growing alarm at rise in violence in occupied West Bank

By Tim Lister, Kareem Khadder, Hadas Gold and Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN

CNN  —  The United Nations human rights chief and the European Union have expressed alarm over ongoing violence in the occupied West Bank, and over attacks by settlers on Palestinian villagers. But a prominent member of the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for illegal settlers’ outposts to be expanded and turned into full settlements.

Hundreds of Israeli settlers attacked the Palestinian village of Turmusayya in the West Bank on Wednesday, the day after the killing of four Jewish settlers nearby, according to the mayor of the village. Those killings had been in response to an Israeli military operation in the Jenin area.

The EU representative to the Palestinians, joined by more than 20 diplomatic missions from the EU and beyond, has visited Turmusayya “to express condolences to the victims of the settler attacks on 21 June and see the houses and property impacted,” the mission said on Twitter.

The chief spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) also condemned the settler attacks in Turmusayya and Urif. Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari described the incident as “very grave.”

“This is an incident that creates terror and escalation, and takes the population that isn’t involved in terror and pushes it [toward extremism], while preventing the IDF from fighting terror in operational activities,” he told Army Radio.

UN Human Rights chief Volker Türk said the violence this week risks “spiraling out of control, fueled by strident political rhetoric and an escalation in the use of advanced military weaponry by Israel.”

The Israeli military operation in the Jenin refugee camp on Monday, which included airstrikes from helicopters, left at least seven Palestinians dead. At least 91 Palestinians and seven Israeli soldiers were injured.

Security personnel work at the scene of a shooting attack that killed four Israelis near the Jewish settlement of Eli on June 20, 2023.

Türk said the operation represented a major intensification of the use of weaponry more generally associated with the conduct of armed hostilities rather than a law enforcement operation.

“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,” he said.

Türk also said he was appalled that the killings of the Israeli settlers were celebrated by some Palestinians.

Amongst other international reaction to this week’s violence, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said it was “deeply concerned about the increasing tension,” and condemned the reported desecration of the Quran in one West Bank mosque.

“We also condemn the attacks by settler groups in various parts of the West Bank and the killing of a Palestinian civilian by Israeli forces,” Turkey said Friday.

Earlier this week, the Moroccan Foreign Ministry announced the postponement of the meeting next month of the Negev Forum, which brings together Morocco and three other Arab states with Israel and the US, citing a negative political environment.

The United Arab Emirates Friday called on the Israeli authorities “to reduce escalation and avoid steps that exacerbate tension and violence in the Palestinian territories.”

In Israel, the organization Peace Now has condemned the “promotion of settlements, legalization of outposts, settler violence, and more urgent developments in the West Bank.”

The Israeli government has announced that 1,000 housing units will be built in the settlement of Eli in the West Bank. Peace Now said that the government had decided to legalize one outpost (Evyatar) created by settlers, while several more such outposts had been established.

Peace Now said it seemed “there are no barriers or constraints in disregarding Palestinian lives and promoting settlements in the occupied territories.”

It said that the “Netanyahu’s government’s complicity in allowing and supporting settler outposts fuels an already volatile situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, intensifying violence against innocent Palestinians by extremist settlers.”

But government ministers seem unmoved. Visiting the Evyatar outpost Friday, National Security Minister Ben Gvir said: “We need to have a whole and full settlement here. Not only here but in all the hills around us.”

“We should settle the Land of Israel, and at the same time, launch a military operation, take down buildings and eliminate terrorists. Not just one or two, but dozens and hundreds and if needed, thousands,” Ben Gvir said.

“The whole situation looks like it’s out of control and it is very hard to see how it’s going to be put back in the box because the Palestinian Authority is crumbling,” the former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk told CNN’s Becky Anderson on Friday.

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