The U.N. Human Rights Office on Wednesday outlined is progress on tracking businesses whose activity contributes to rights violations in the establishment of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories.
The office said it has identified 206 companies doing business in the Israeli settlements, of which 143 are domiciled in Israel or the settlements, 22 in the U.S. and the rest in other countries. So far it has contacted only 64 firms about their activities.
The rights office was mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March 2016 to build a database of companies doing business in the settlements following a 2013 report that found that such enterprises had "directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements."
The office said is still weighing the responses it has received and making determinations regarding the companies' involvement in the business activities of interest to the UN. It said it expects to release the names of the companies after contacting all of them.
The office has said Palestinians suffer from restrictions on freedom of religion, movement and education due to settlement expansion. Other rights to land, water and an adequate standard of living also are affected.
The report said that businesses "may need to consider whether it is possible to engage in such an environment in a manner that respects human rights."
More than 600,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem, which are seen as a major obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. They live alongside some 3 million Palestinians.
After the Six-Day War, Israel annexed east Jerusalem and deemed the entire city its "indivisible and eternal capital," a status not recognized internationally. Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, which is now ruled by Hamas.
The international community regards all Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories to be illegal and a major obstacle to Middle Eastern peace. The area, captured by Israel in 1967, is not sovereign Israeli territory, and Palestinians there are not Israeli citizens and do not have the right to vote. Palestinians accuse Israel of waging an aggressive campaign to Judaize the historic city with the aim of effacing its Arab and Islamic identity and driving out its Palestinian inhabitants.
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