As the deadliest year for West Bank Palestinians since the end of the second intifada draws to a close, a group of United Nations human rights experts on Thursday condemned the “rampant violence” perpetrated by Israeli security forces and settlers against residents of the illegally occupied territory.
The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that “150 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank by Israeli forces so far this year, including 33 children,” making 2022 the “deadliest in this area of the occupied Palestinian territory since the United Nations started systematically documenting fatalities in 2005.”
Ten Israelis, including five settlers, a guard, and four members of Israeli state forces, were killed so far this year.
In a statement, UN special rapporteurs Francesca Albanese, Morris Tiball-Binz, and Clémente Voule reminded Israel’s far-right government – whose members have endorsed ethnic cleansing and even genocide against Palestinians – “that pending the dismantlement of its unlawful occupation, Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory must be treated as protected persons, not enemies or terrorists.”
UN experts condemn rampant Israeli settler violence & excessive use of force by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank this year – making 2022 the deadliest in this area of the occupied Palestinian territory since 2005: https://t.co/7m3ZrWuEzLpic.twitter.com/oTfPH7KYUO
— UN Special Procedures (@UN_SPExperts) December 15, 2022
Most of the Palestinians killed in the West Bank died during an ongoing Israel Defense Forces (IDF) offensive, launched in May, in the Jenin refugee camp and nearby Nablus targeting armed resistance by groups including the Lions’ Den and Jenin Brigades, whose members Israel considers terrorists. Militants are fighting the 55-year Israeli occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, land and home theft, settler colonization, and other human rights violations.
It was during a May raid in Jenin that famed Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who held Palestinian and U.S. citizenship, was shot dead by occupation forces – deliberately, according to several investigations.
Earlier this week, Israeli officials admitted an IDF sniper fatally shot Jana Zakarneh, a 16-year-old girl from Jenin, who had rushed to the roof of her home to retrieve her cat as Israeli forces raided her neighborhood on Sunday, but claimed the killing was accidental.
However, Majed Zakaran, the slain girl’s uncle, toldThe Guardian that “she was killed in cold blood by the Israelis. She was alone on the roof. She was just a child and they shot her four times in the head and chest.”
Palestinian teenage girl Jana Majdi Zakarneh was killed in a hail of bullets fired by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank while standing on the roof of her home.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) December 14, 2022
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 2022 is also a record year for violent Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians. The agency counted 660 such incidents, as of November 21.
“Armed and masked Israeli settlers are attacking Palestinians in their homes, attacking children on their way to school, destroying property and burning olive groves, and terrorizing entire communities with complete impunity,” the special rapporteurs said Thursday. “Disturbing evidence of Israeli forces frequently facilitating, supporting, and participating in settler attacks makes it difficult to discern between Israeli settler and state violence. The impunity of one is reinforced by the impunity of the other.”
Bader al-Tamimi, a Palestinian shop owner and municipal worker in occupied Hebron, described how Israeli settlers went on a “rampage” through his town last month.
“It was like a sea of settlers, and all of them were filled with hate in their eyes,” he told Mondoweiss. “There were hundreds, thousands of them, with even more soldiers protecting them, and they just started attacking anything Palestinian – people and shops.”
Israeli settler violence against Palestinians soared in 2022. Palestinians say the worrying trend will only worsen as right-wing extremists make their home in Israel’s new government. https://t.co/ODgHmf84xV
— Mondoweiss (@Mondoweiss) December 15, 2022
“They immediately started throwing things at us and attacking our shops,” al-Tamimi added. “They tried to break everything and tried to assault us. When we tried to defend ourselves, the soldiers who were with them started beating us up. Instead of stopping the settlers, the soldiers attacked us instead and let the settlers continue on their rampage.”
The UN experts’ statement asserts that “illegal settlement poses a corrosive threat to Israeli society as a whole, and unless Israeli forces abandon this dominant settler mindset and rightfully treat Palestinians in the occupied territory as protected persons, Israel’s deplorable record in the occupied West Bank will likely deteriorate further in 2023.”
“No peaceful settlement can be pursued under Israel’s repressive occupation,” the rapporteurs added, “a reality that should be a wake-up call for all decision-makers.”
Palestinians, Israelis, and international observers fear that the violence of 2022 could portend even greater bloodshed in the year to come, with some predicting a third intifada – or mass Palestinian uprising against Israeli oppression – may not be far off.
Brett Wilkins is is staff writer for Common Dreams. Based in San Francisco, his work covers issues of social justice, human rights and war and peace. This originally appeared at CommonDreams and is reprinted with the author’s permission.