The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk made the remarks on Friday, three days after the regime’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said the Palestinian village of Huwara “needs to be wiped out,” adding that he thought “Israel should do it.”
Speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Turk denounced the remarks as “an unfathomable statement of incitement to violence and hostility.”
“The situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is a tragedy, a tragedy above all for the Palestinian people,” Turk told the Human Rights Council as he formally presented a report on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Smotrich’s remarks came after hundreds of armed Israeli settlers attacked Huwara and nearby villages and torched dozens of houses and cars. They had been angered at the killing of two Israeli brothers by a Palestinian gunman in Huwara.
One Palestinian was killed during the settler rampage and at least 390 others were injured, with Palestinian media reporting stabbings and attacks with metal rods and rocks.
The Israeli regime’s forces and settlers have escalated their deadly acts of aggression against the Palestinians since late December 2022, when Benjamin Netanyahu staged a comeback as the regime’s prime minister at the head of a cabinet of hard-right and ultra-Orthodox parties.
Since the start of the year, at least 68 Palestinians have been killed as a result of the violence, including five, who were killed by Israeli settlers’ gunfire, 13 children, four elderly people, and one prisoner.
Turk warned the council that the “increasing violence is condemning innocent people,” calling on “decision-makers…to step back from the precipice to which increasing extremism and violence have led.”
‘Occupation must end’
Elsewhere in his remarks, the UN official made a direct call for the Israeli regime to end its occupation of and settlement activities across the Palestinian territories.
“My report finds that over the reporting period, lethal force has been frequently employed by the Israeli security forces (ISF) regardless of the level of threat and at times even as an initial measure rather than as last resort,” Turk said.
“My office has also documented several cases of apparent extrajudicial targeted killings by members of” Israeli forces, he said. “The report finds that 131 Palestinians were killed by ISF personnel over the past year in a context of law enforcement that is outside any context of hostilities. This includes 65 people who we understand were not armed nor engaged in any attacks or clashes.”
“The occupation is eating away at the health of both societies on every level, from childhood to old age and in every part of life. For this violence to end, the occupation must end,” he added.
“In the near future, there must be an end to settlements in the occupied land. And within a foreseeable horizon…,” Turk insisted.
The Israeli regime claimed existence in 1948 after occupying huge swathes of Palestinian territories during a Western-backed war.
It occupied more land, namely the West Bank, including East al-Quds, and the Gaza Strip, in another such war in 1967.
Ever since it has built hundreds of settlements upon the overrun territories and deployed the most aggressive restrictions on the movements of Palestinians there.
In his remarks in Geneva, the UN rights chief said decades of the Israeli occupation of Palestine have led to “widening dispossession … and recurring and severe violations of their [Palestinians’] rights, including the right to life”.
“Nobody could wish to live this way or imagine that forcing people into conditions of such desperation can lead to an enduring solution,” he said.