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Israeli settlements root cause of rights violations against Palestinians: UN

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein. (AFP photo)

A senior UN rights official says the continued development of illegal Israeli settlements is the root cause of a broad spectrum of human rights abuses across the occupied Palestinian territories. 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein made the remarks in a statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Tuesday. 

He noted that settlements only prolong the occupation and undermine the future of Palestinians.

“The presence and continued development of Israeli settlements lie at the root of a broad spectrum of human rights violations in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem (al-Quds),” al-Hussein said. 

Al-Hussein also called on UN member states to end their businesses in illegal Israeli settlements and not to facilitate Israel’s violations of international law. 

He urged all states “to ensure that they are not taking actions that either recognize or assist the expansion of settlements or construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem (al-Quds).” 

UN urges probe into Israeli killing of Palestinians 

Elsewhere in his remarks, the UN rights chief called for an immediate investigation into what he called Israel's unlawful killings of Palestinians in the occupied territories. 

“Some of these responses strongly suggest unlawful killings, including possible extrajudicial executions and willful killings. Prompt, independent, impartial thorough and effective investigations should be carried out into all allegations of excessive use of force,” al-Hussein stated. 

Israeli border policemen frisk a Palestinian man at Damascus Gate in the Old city of al-Quds (Jerusalem) on March 18, 2016. (AFP photo)

He also called on violators of international humanitarian law to be held accountable.

On March 21, Makarim Wibisono, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, stepped down, citing the Tel Aviv regime's refusal to let him into areas he was meant to investigate.

Since August 2015, the occupied Palestinian lands have been the scene of tensions after Israel’s imposition of restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East al-Quds. 

At least 206 Palestinians, including children and women, have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces since October 1, 2015.

Buying settlement products abets an act of war

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, Ibrahim Khraishi, said those who purchase settlement products from Israel are an accomplice to its acts of war. 

“Settlements only prolong the occupation and undermine the future of the Palestinians,” Khraishi said, adding, “Anyone who buys products of the settlements are accomplices to the Israeli authority and to acts which constitute acts of war.”

“The Israeli occupation has lasted almost 50 years. This has only generated violence and instability in the region. It must be ended if we are going to have human rights prevail in the region,” he said.

In January, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report that businesses should stop operating in, financing, servicing, or trading with settlement-related “activities that contribute to and benefit from an inherently unlawful and abusive system that violates the rights of Palestinians.”

Arvind Ganesan, the director of the business and human rights division of HRW, said such businesses play a critical role in expanding settlements and encourage the Israeli authorities’ unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources.

“Settlement businesses unavoidably contribute to Israeli policies that dispossess and harshly discriminate against Palestinians, while profiting from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and other resources,” Ganesan said, adding, “The only way for businesses to comply with their own human rights responsibilities is to stop working with and in Israeli settlements.”  

The photo taken on February 1, 2016, shows a partial view of the Israeli settlement of Efrat, located on the southern outskirts of the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (AFP)

More than half a million Israelis live in 237 settlements throughout the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including in East al-Quds.

The United Nations and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Convention, which forbids construction on occupied lands. 

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