The United Nations’ human rights office demanded on Tuesday that Israeli security forces immediately stop participating in and enabling continued attacks by Jewish settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, as the international community’s fears of a wider regional war continue to grow.

The remarks from Office of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights come in response to a recent settler rampage in several of the West Bank’s Palestinian towns. The latest wave of violence there was triggered by what Israeli authorities said was a militant attack on Friday that killed a 14-year-old Israeli boy from a settler family.

“Neither Palestinians nor Israelis should take the law into their own hands to exact revenge,” OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said during a press briefing in Geneva, calling the escalating violence in the West Bank a “matter of grave concern.”

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, at least seven Palestinians have been killed either by Israeli security forces or by armed settlers since the attacks began Friday, with an additional 75 wounded.

Jewish settlers enter with Israeli Security Forces during a raid in Hebron, West Bank on April 13, 2024.
Jewish settlers enter with Israeli Security Forces during a raid in Hebron, West Bank on April 13, 2024.

Amer Shallodi/Anadolu via Getty Images

In addition to using firearms to attack Palestinians, settlers and Israeli forces also torched hundreds of homes, buildings and cars in the West Bank, per OCHCR. Shamdasani said that settlers also reportedly established at least two new illegal outposts this week “near Palestinian communities which have been repeatedly attacked by settlers in the past months and are at imminent risk of being forcibly transferred from their homes and land.”

“Israel, as the occupying power, must take all measures in its power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety in the occupied West Bank,” she said. “This obligation includes protecting Palestinians from settler attacks, and ending unlawful use of force against Palestinians by [Israeli forces].”

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war, and since its occupation has continued to build a massive number of settlements belonging to more than half a million Jewish settlers. The international community has long considered the settlements illegal and an obstacle to lasting regional peace. Human rights groups have gone a step farther, accusing Israel of committing apartheid by forcibly removing Palestinian families from their homes and allowing law enforcement to ignore ― and, in some instances, even participate in ― violence against them.

“The Israeli Security Forces must immediately end their active participation in and support for settler attacks on Palestinians,” Shamdasani said. “Israeli authorities must instead prevent further attacks, including by bringing those responsible to account.”

An interior view of a damaged home as Jewish settlers reportedly set fire to Palestinian houses and vehicles in the Qusra village of Nablus in the West Bank on April 14, 2024.
An interior view of a damaged home as Jewish settlers reportedly set fire to Palestinian houses and vehicles in the Qusra village of Nablus in the West Bank on April 14, 2024.

Nedal Eshtayah/Anadolu via Getty Images

Following the deadly Oct. 7 attack by Hamas against Israel, which killed some 1,200 Israelis, the West Bank has experienced a general increase in bloodshed. Hamas is the militant group that de facto governs Gaza, but it does not rule the West Bank, which is governed by the internationally-recognized Palestinian Authority.

Since Oct. 7, Israeli forces and settlers have killed at least 465 people in the West Bank and wounded more than 4,750, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The attack by Hamas triggered Israel’s ongoing offensive in Gaza, which over the last six months has caused a dire humanitarian crisis. The assault has killed more than 33,800 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and Gazans now face mass displacement, starvation, disease, detention and dismemberment.

The OHCHR said that all states with influence in the region must do “everything in their power” to stop the catastrophic situation in Gaza, escalating tensions in the West Bank and the heightened risk of a wider regional war in the Middle East.

President Joe Biden, whose administration’s support has been integral in Israel’s offensive in Gaza, has repeatedly spoken out against the settler violence and extremism in the West Bank. Under an executive order signed earlier this year, the U.S. can impose sanctions on individuals and entities linked to violence in the West Bank ― a move that gives the White House power to block U.S. nonprofits from sending money to settlers.

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