A Palestinian protester holds a flag as he arrives at an area known as "E1", which connects the two parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank (Reuters)
A UN fact-finding mission has urged Israel to stop settlement expansion and withdraw all Jewish settlers from the occupied West Bank, claiming it breaches multiple human rights of the Palestinians.
Israeli policies of "dispossessions, evictions, demolitions and displacement from lands" have been slammed by a report from the inquiry team, led by French judge Christine Chanet.
The most egregious violations of humanitarian and international law concern the denial of the right to self-determination and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian people, according to the inquiry members.
They add that the system of segregation, supported by military and law enforcement controls, contravenes the 1949 Geneva Conventions that ban the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory.
The breach of law could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) according to the Rome Statute.
"Israel must, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions. It must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories]," said Chanet.
"We are today calling on the government of Israel to ensure full accountability for all violations, put an end to the policy of impunity and to ensure justice for all victims," said Asma Jahangir, member of the UN mission from Pakistan.
Israel has not collaborated with the investigation set up by the Human Rights Council last March to examine the impact of settlements in the territory, including East Jerusalem. Israel says the forum has an inherent bias against it and defends its settlement policy by citing historical and biblical links to the West Bank.
Israel has transferred approximately 8 percent of its citizens into the occupied Palestinian territories since the 1970s. The Israeli government embarked upon an open policy of "planning, construction, development, consolidation and encouragement of settlements" in 1967.
The settlements have severed territorial continuity between Palestinian communities and created a dozen enclaves in the West Bank. Palestinians are also barred from accessing their natural resources: 86 percent of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea is under the de facto jurisdiction of the settlers.
The UN report also states that the lack of accountability "permeates all types of acts of violence committed by Israeli settlers against property and persons". According to Israeli NGO Yesh Din, of 869 cases of violence against the Palestinians between 2005 and 2012, over 91 percent of all are closed without an indictment being served.
Palestinians are also subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, including administrative detention and mass arrests. Over 700,000 Palestinians have been detained in Israel since the start of the occupation. Among them, several children have been arrested in villages near a settlement.
The UN report also investigated the settlers' 'price-tag' attacks, aimed at extorting a price from the Palestinian population living close to settlements for political reasons. The purpose is to provoke Palestinians and the Israeli authorities alike, to maintain the status quo.
An-Najah university has examined 119 price-tag incidents, which include vandalism and racist graffiti, from 2008 and 2012.
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