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Israel settlement programme branded war crimes by UN experts

ISRAEL’S illegal settlement programme is “the engine of the occupation” of Palestine, United Nations experts said on Wednesday, branding Tel Aviv’s continued actions a “war crime.”

Special rapporteurs Michael Lynk and Balakrishnan Rajagopal issued a statement on the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories and condemned plans by Tel Aviv to build thousands of new settler units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“The United Nations has repeatedly stated that the Israeli settlements in occupied territory are a flagrant violation of international law and it has demanded that Israel cease its settlement expansion and remove its settlements,” they said in a statement. 

“The Israeli settlements are a presumptive war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and should be treated as such by the international community,” the UN experts continued.

The officials slammed the recent announcement of plans to develop 9,000 new units in the Atarot settlement along with nearly 3,500 in the West Bank’s E1 area. A further 1,700 buildings have been approved in occupied East Jerusalem. 

They said that the settlement expansion programme was “the engine of the occupation,” responsible for mass violations of Palestinian rights.

This includes “land confiscation, resource alienation, severe restrictions on freedom of movement, mounting settler violence and racial and ethnic discrimination,” the pair reported.

But the main aim of the settler programme was “rupturing the relationship between a native people and its territory” which they said amounted to “a denial of the right to self-determination, which is at the very core of modern human rights law.”

While they welcomed criticism by the US and the European Union, they said that unless action was taken it would “mean little in these circumstances.”

The international community was urged to support the ongoing investigations into the settlement programme and potential war crimes by the Prosecutor’s Office at the International Criminal Court.

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