The top United Nations human rights official accused Israel of committing war crimes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem due to expanding Jewish settlements.
"The establishment and expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by Israel, including the legal and administrative measures that it has taken to provide socioeconomic incentives, security, infrastructure and social services to citizens of Israel residing in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, amount to the transfer by Israel of its population into the Occupied Palestinian Territory," Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said as reported by the Jerusalem Post.
"The transfer of the population by an occupying State into an occupied territory is a grave breach of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and therefore a war crime," he added. His report on Israeli settlement activity that was published on the U.N. Human Rights Council website last Wednesday will be presented to the council on March 19.
Israel faced sharp criticism from the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama over settlement construction, but that has not been the case with U.S. President Donald Trump's White House, and Israeli officials have sought to take advantage of his backing. Sporadic unrest has occurred since Trump provoked Palestinian anger by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Dec. 6. Nineteen Palestinians have been killed since then, with most of them shot dead in clashes with Israeli forces, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, as reported by Anadolu Agency (AA). In a statement released yesterday, the ministry said three children were among the fatalities.
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 Palestinians. They live alongside some 3 million Palestinians.
After the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and deems the entire city its "indivisible and eternal capital," a status not recognized internationally. Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, and it 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 East 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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