Category: Politics / January 31, 2013 12:47 PM EST
United Nations human rights investigators called on Israel on Thursday (January 31) to halt settlement expansion and withdraw all Jewish settlers from the West Bank, saying that it violates international law.
"Israel must, that's our first recommendation, must cease settlement activities and provide adequate, prompt and effective remedies to the victims of violation of human rights", French judge Christine Chanet, who led the team of investigators, told a news briefing in Geneva.
The settlements contravene the 1949 Geneva Conventions forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory, which could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), she said.
About 250 settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have been established since 1967 and they hold an estimated 520,000 settlers, according to the U.N. report. The settlements impede Palestinian access to water resources and agricultural land, the report said.
"To build a state you need a land, and if you look at the map, you got the map in the annex of the report, you will see how the settlements are breaking the continuity of Palestinian land, so that's why we are pointing out that it's a kind of creeping annexation," Chanet said.
The independent U.N. investigators interviewed more than 50 people who came to Jordan in November to testify about confiscated land, damage to their livelihoods including olive trees, and violence by Jewish settlers, according to the report.
Israel has not cooperated with the probe set up by the Human Rights Council last March to examine the impact of settlements in the territory, including East Jerusalem. Israel says the forum has an inherent bias against it and defends its settlement policy by citing historical and Biblical links to the West Bank.
After the General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians status at the world body, Israel said it would build 3,000 more settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - areas Palestinians want for a future state, along with the Gaza Strip.