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Israel's occupation of West Bank unlawful under international law, UN report finds

Occupation of West Bank is designed to ensure permanent Israeli control of the area set aside for future Palestinian state, according to the organisation
Israeli security forces stand guard amid protests by Palestinians following a demonstration demanding the opening of roads around Nablus city, on 21 October 2022 (AFP)

The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is unlawful under international law due to its permanence and the Israeli government’s de-facto annexation policies, according to a new report issued by the United Nations General Assembly.

“By ignoring international law in establishing or facilitating the establishment of settlements, and directly or indirectly transferring Israeli civilians into these settlements, successive Israel governments have set facts on the ground to ensure permanent Israeli control in the West Bank,” Navi Pillay, chair of the commission, said.

The report, released on Thursday by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, noted “[a] coercive environment intended to force Palestinians to leave their homes and alter the demographic composition of certain areas [in the occupied West Bank.]”

Israeli contradictions

The authors warned that Israel’s actions in the occupied West Bank were in direct contradiction to Israel’s UN vote last week declaring that any unilateral annexation of a state’s territory by another state is a violation of international law.

“Unless universally applied, including to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, this core principle of the United Nations Charter will become meaningless,” Pillay said.

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The report detailed Israeli efforts to drive Palestinians out of the West Bank. According to the authors, Israel has confiscated land for military purposes but then used it for settlement construction. In occupied East Jerusalem, restrictive planning and zoning regimes have obstructed adequate housing, infrastructure and livelihoods for Palestinians, in effect driving them out of the city, 

Tensions in the region are running high, with more than 100 attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank over the last ten days, according to local media.

Over the past week, Israel has shut down the Nablus district, one of the largest in the West Bank, as the army cracks down on a resurgence of armed resistance in the area.

The report noted the "silent harm" and psychological trauma caused by the Israeli occupation. “These debilitating processes have severe short and long-term consequences and must be urgently addressed,” Miloon Kothari, a UN Human Rights Council commissioner, said.

Monday’s report follows one by the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that said Israel’s actions against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank amounted to “persecution”.

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