UN Experts Call On Israel to Stop Harassing the West Bank

In the Masafer Yatta villages in the occupied West Bank, where Israel declared it a military zone, experts from the United Nations denounced Israel’s “harassment” of aid workers and human rights advocates.

Residents continue to be threatened by the risk of forcible transfer, including mass forced evictions and arbitrary displacement, according to the special rapporteurs, who urged that such harassment must end.

The four experts said in a joint statement that: “Israeli authorities’ hubris is proving without limits. They are even harassing human rights defenders and humanitarian workers seeking to support and protect people facing grave human rights violations in Masafer Yatta.”

This confirms that impunity over abuse of power fosters power to abuse, it said. “This is a direct assault on the core of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

One of Israel’s longest-running legal challenges involves the agricultural land known as Masafer Yatta, also known as Firing Zone 918, which is close to Hebron.

The 30-square-kilometer (12-square-mile) area was designated a restricted military area and unoccupied by the army at the beginning of the 1980s.

For over 20 years, residents of eight communities had been resisting Israeli government efforts to expel them in court.

However, Israel’s High Court authorized the expulsion of Palestinian residents in May of this year in order to make room for a military training area.

The experts, who are required by the United Nations to report their findings to them, said: “The tragic implications of that decision are now before our eyes: roughly 1,200 Palestinian residents in Masafer Yatta are left defenseless in front of the threat of forced eviction and arbitrary displacement.”

A special rapporteur on the status of human rights defenders in the occupied Palestinian territory as well as rapporteurs on internally displaced persons, adequate housing, and the situation of human rights defenders wrote the statement.

They expressed shock at reports that Israeli soldiers in Masafer Yatta had harassed human rights advocates and aid workers.

According to their statement, “They have been stopped and detained for several hours at checkpoints and had their identification documents or cars confiscated, often on grounds that they had entered a closed military site without permission.”

The experts voiced special worry for Sami Hureini, a well-known advocate for human rights and member of the activist organization “Youth of Sumud,” which “engaged in peaceful resistance against illegal settlements in the southern Hebron hills.”

He was apparently detained by the military for several hours on June 28 after being apprehended at a checkpoint in Masafer Yatta, according to the experts.

Following his participation in a nonviolent rally on January 8, 2021, He is currently being tried in the Ofer Military Court for allegedly obstructing and assaulting a soldier and entering a closed military zone, according to the statement.

Riham Nasra, Hureini’s lawyer, claimed that her legal team had provided “hundreds of photos and videos” to refute the accusations made against her client.

In a statement to the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Nasra said, “Five activists who were near Sami during the protest testified that at no point did Sami resort to violence.”

The Israeli military and foreign ministry chose not to respond to the U.N. experts’ comments right away.

Hureini had been “charged for his participation in a violent demonstration against soldiers and inciting other demonstrators to violence against the security forces,” the Israeli army said in a statement to the AFP.




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