The new outbreak of violence in the occupied West Bank could spiral out of control, the UN human rights chief warned on Friday.
This week, at least 18 people have been killed in the territory — in incursions by the Israeli military or attacks by Palestinians or Jewish settlers.
“These latest killings and the violence, along with the inflammatory rhetoric, serve only to drive Israelis and Palestinians deeper into an abyss,” Volker Turk said in a statement.
So far this year, more than 200 people have died in violence linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the vast majority of them Palestinians.
Deadly violence has flared in recent days in the northern West Bank, a stronghold of Palestinian armed groups where Israel has stepped up military operations.
Turk said this week’s violence was being fuelled by strident political rhetoric and an escalation in the use of advanced military weaponry by Israel.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the sharp deterioration was having a terrible impact on both Palestinians and Israelis and called for an immediate end to the violence.
He said international human rights law required Israeli authorities to ensure all operations are planned and implemented to prevent lethal force.
Every death caused in such a context requires an effective investigation, he added.
“Israel must urgently reset its policies and actions in the occupied West Bank in line with international human rights standards, including protecting and respecting the right to life,” Turk said.
“As the occupying power, Israel also has obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure public order and safety within the occupied Palestinian Territory.”
Turk said the underlying dynamics leading to violence and the arbitrary loss of life needed to be addressed urgently and would require political will from Israel and the Palestinians as well as the international community.
“For this violence to end, the occupation must end,” he said.
“On all sides, the people with the political power know this and must instigate immediate steps to realise this.”