GENEVA - Violence in the occupied West Bank linked to the war in Gaza passed a deadly milestone with more than 500 Palestinians killed since 7 October, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights chief Volker Türk said on Tuesday.

Two of the latest fatalities were 16-year-old Ahmed Ashraf Hamidat and 17-year-old Mohammed Musa Al Bitar, both shot “at a distance of about 70 metres while running away after throwing stones and/or Molotov cocktails towards a[n Israeli] military post outside a settlement near Aqabat Jaber, CCTV footage shows”, said the High Commissioner’s Office, OHCHR.

The youngsters’ deaths, along with the killings of four more Palestinians by the Israeli army on Monday, brings the Palestinian toll to 505, since Hamas-led terror attacks in southern Israel sparked the war in Gaza, OHCHR said.

In the same period, 24 Israelis including eight who were Israeli Security Forces members, were killed in the West Bank and Israel in clashes or alleged attacks by Palestinians from the West Bank.


‘Unprecedented bloodshed’


“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,” Mr. Türk continued. “Any allegation of unlawful killings must be thoroughly and independently investigated and those responsible held to account.”


Lethal force, the first resort


The UN rights chief noted that the killing of Palestinians had already reached a “record high” in the first nine months of last year, only to rise “sharply” after the 7 October attacks by Hamas-led fighters that left some 1,250 dead and more than 250 taken hostage.

“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,” the statement from the UN rights chief’s office said.

And despite the absence of armed hostilities in the occupied West Bank, the ISF carried out at least 29 operations “involving airstrikes by unmanned aerial vehicles or planes and the firing of ground-to-ground missiles on refugee camps and other densely populated areas”, it continued.

During these operations, 164 Palestinians were killed, including 35 children, according to OHCHR, which pointed to a “prevalence” of Palestinian victims shot in the upper part of the body and denied medical assistance.

This 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…in cases where those shot clearly did not represent an imminent threat to life”, the UN rights office said.

 

 

 

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