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Global action needed to thwart Israel's annexation of West Bank, UN experts say

A man walks along a road by Israel's separation barrier between the occupied West Bank village of Nazlat Issa (L) and the town of Baqa al-Gharbiya (R) in the north of occupied Palestinian territories. (Photo: AFP)

A group of UN experts has urged the international community to take action to prevent Israel’s annexation of the whole West Bank, warning that the regime seems intent on grabbing the whole region in violation of international law.

“Israel’s continuous annexation of portions of the occupied Palestinian territory, now focusing on large swathes of the West Bank after unlawfully annexing east Jerusalem [Al-Quds], suggests that a concrete effort may be under way to annex the entire occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law,” the experts said on Wednesday.

“Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders, who peacefully bring public attention to these violations, keep being slandered, criminalized or labeled as terrorists,” the experts said, according to the office of the UN high commissionaire for human rights.

The experts pointed to the Israeli far-right cabinet’s decision in February to effectively appoint finance minister Bezalel Smotrich as the de facto governor of the West Bank, saying this move has “solidified Israel’s annexation of occupied territory.”

“Israel has persistently pursued annexation in many parts of the occupied Palestinian territory. Over the last five decades, Israel has confiscated or endorsed confiscation of Palestinian lands and resources, resulting in over 270 colonies housing 750,000 Israeli settlers,” they said.

‘Israeli apartheid being consolidated’

While the Israeli settlers in occupied Palestinian territory enjoy civil and political rights, Palestinians are subject to military rule.

“The consolidation of an apartheid regime is an unavoidable consequence of such a system,” the experts added.

The experts drew a comparison between the situation in Ukraine and Palestine, saying countries have imposed sanctions on Russia over what is seen as the annexation of Ukraine’s eastern parts, but Israel’s annexation of Palestinian lands has not drawn the same response.

“By contrast, Israel’s annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory is obfuscated by political rhetoric, debates and negotiations, which ultimately rest on double standards,” they said.

“This show of à la carte enforcement of international law undermines the foundations of the UN Charter and the promise of universality of international human rights, 75 years after the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the experts said.

They expressed grave concern regarding the escalating scale and brutal nature of violence perpetrated against Palestinian men, women and children, noting the violation of the right to life, among others, as annexation intensifies, and called on Israel to end these violations immediately.

“We fear that the spiral of violence will continue unless the primacy of international law as a foundation of peace and security is restored,” the experts said.

They urged UN member states to utilize the range of available legal means to seek an end to these illegal acts.

“Justice must be served, and international law must be upheld without double standards to end this cycle of violence and secure a just and lasting peace for both Palestinians and Israelis,” the experts said.

‘Urgent steps' needed to end violence

Separately, a senior UN official expressed concern over increased Israeli violence against Palestinians in a briefing to the UN Security Council on Thursday, particularly the latest Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp.

“This deterioration is taking place alongside ongoing unilateral steps that undermine a two-State solution, the absence of a peace process and the continuing economic challenges facing Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority (PA),” said Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General for Middle East, briefing ambassadors.

“It is critical that all parties take urgent steps to stop the downward spiral and engage with each other to seek a constructive path forward,” he stressed.

He highlighted the 3 to 4 July Israeli military operation in the Jenin Refugee Camp, marked by multiple drone airstrikes and the use of over 1,000 ground troops.

The resulting deaths and injuries were the worst in a single operation in the West Bank since the UN began tracking casualties in 2005, Khiari told ambassadors.

Targeted sites included locations adjacent to UN facilities and a school, while exchanges of fire took place near health facilities. The only health clinic in the camp - run by the UN agency that assists Palestine refugees, UNRWA – was damaged and remains closed, he said

The operation also had a significant humanitarian toll on the camp and its residents, with over 460 houses damaged, roads dug up and families displaced.

“All perpetrators of violence must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice,” he said.

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