GENEVA (June 45, 2024) – UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk tissued a renewed call for an end to the sharp rise in deadly violence in the occupied West Bank since 7 October, and urged accountability for the killing of over 500 Palestinians by Israeli Security Forces (ISF) and settlers.

On Saturday, 1 June, Israeli forces shot dead 16-year-old Ahmed Ashraf Hamidat and critically wounded 17-year-old Mohammed Musa Al Bitar near Aqabat Jaber refugee camp, Jericho. Al Bitar died the following day. Their deaths, along with the killings of four more Palestinians by the ISF on Monday, took the Palestinian toll since 7 October to 505 dead, according to information assessed by the UN Human Rights Office.

In the same period, 24 Israelis, of whom eight were ISF members, were killed in the West Bank and Israel in clashes or alleged attacks by Palestinians from the West Bank.

“As if the tragic events in Israel and then Gaza over the past eight months were not enough, the people of the occupied West Bank are also being subjected to day-after-day of unprecedented bloodshed. It is unfathomable that so many lives have been taken in such a wanton fashion,” the High Commissioner said.

“The killing, destruction and widespread human rights violations are unacceptable, and must cease immediately. Israel must not only adopt but enforce rules of engagement that are fully in line with applicable human rights norms and standards. Any allegation of unlawful killings must be thoroughly and independently investigated and those responsible held to account.

“Pervasive impunity for such crimes has been commonplace for far too long in the occupied West Bank. Such impunity has created an enabling environment for more and more unlawful killings by the ISF. International law must be respected and enforced, and accountability must be ensured.”

The two boys killed at the weekend were shot at a distance of about 70 metres while running away after throwing stones and/or Molotov cocktails towards a military post outside a settlement near Aqabat Jaber, CCTV footage shows.

The ISF has often used lethal force as a first resort against Palestinian protesters throwing stones, incendiary bottles, and firecrackers at ISF armoured vehicles, in cases where those shot clearly did not represent an imminent threat to life. The prevalence of Palestinians who died after being shot in the upper part of the body, along with a pattern of the denial of medical assistance to those injured, suggests intent to kill in violation of the right to life, rather than a graduated application of force and an attempt to de-escalate tense situations.

“Fatality verification and in-depth monitoring of over 80 cases by the UN Human Rights Office indicates consistent violations of international human rights law on the use of force by the ISF through unnecessary and disproportionate use of lethal force and an increase in apparently planned targeted killings,” said Türk. “They also show the systematic denial or delaying of medical assistance to those critically injured.

“The violence by the ISF and Israeli settlers, against the backdrop of the scale of killing and destruction continuing in Gaza, have instilled fear and insecurity among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.”

The killing of Palestinians by the ISF, which had already reached a record high in the first nine months of 2023, rose sharply after the horrific attacks by Palestinian armed groups on Israel last October. Since the start of 2024, almost 200 Palestinians have been killed by the ISF, compared with 113 and 50 killed in the same periods in 2023 and 2022 respectively.

Since 7 October, despite the absence of armed hostilities in the occupied West Bank, the ISF has carried out at least 29 militarised operations, involving airstrikes by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or planes and the firing of ground-to-ground missiles on refugee camps and other densely populated areas. During these operations, 164 Palestinians have been killed, including 35 children.