Israeli settlements expand by record amount, UN rights chief says

By Thomson Reuters Mar 8, 2024 | 3:08 AM

GENEVA (Reuters) – Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories have expanded by a record amount and risk eliminating any practical possibly of a Palestinian state, the U.N. human rights chief said on Friday.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said that the growth of Israeli settlements amounted to the transfer by Israel of its own population, which he said was a war crime. The U.S. Biden administration said last month the settlements were “inconsistent” with international law after Israel announced new housing plans in the occupied West Bank.

“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 a statement that accompanied the 16-page report.

The report, based on the U.N.’s own monitoring as well as other sources, documented 24,300 new Israeli housing units in the occupied West Bank during a one-year period through to end-October 2023, which it said was the highest on record since monitoring began in 2017.

It also said there had been a dramatic increase in the intensity, severity and regularity of both Israeli settler and state violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, particularly since the deadly Hamas attacks on Israel on Oct. 7.

Israel claims a biblical birthright to the land where settlers are expanding. Its military says it is conducting counter-terrorism operations in the West Bank and is targeting suspected militants.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Alex Richardson)