UN: Israeli settlements 'violate Palestinian rights'

Yigal Palmor, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "It is terribly counterproductive"

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Israeli settlements in the occupied territories violate Palestinians' human rights in ways designed to drive them off the land, a UN report states.

The report says settlements displace Palestinians, destroy their crops and property, and subject them to violence.

Israel refused to co-operate with the inquiry by three UN researchers.

The Israeli foreign ministry said the report from the UN Human Rights Council was "counterproductive" and would hamper the peace process.

"The only way to resolve all pending issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including the settlements issue, is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions," the ministry said in a statement.

"The Human Rights Council has sadly distinguished itself by its systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel. This latest report is yet another unfortunate reminder of that."

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The transfer of Israeli citizens into the Occupied Palestinian Territories... is a central feature of Israel's practices and policies”

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The report is likely further to strain relations between Israel and the UN, the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says.

On Thursday, the French, Pakistani and Botswanan UN report authors demanded Israel cease all settlement activities, saying Israel was "committing serious breaches" of humanitarian law.

"The magnitude of violations relating to Israel's policies of dispossessions, evictions, demolitions and displacements from land shows the widespread nature of these breaches of human rights," Unity Dow, member of the fact-finding mission from Botswana, said in a statement.

"The motivation behind violence and intimidation against the Palestinians and their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands, allowing the settlements to expand."

'Prohibited'

The report comes two days after Israel failed to turn up at a UN review of its human rights record.

About 520,000 Israeli settlers reside in about 250 separate settlements in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, the report states. Some of the settlements were built without government authorisation.

The growth in the settler population has hastened over the past decade compared to growth in Israel. The government in place since April 2009, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has "contributed to the consolidation and expansion" of settlements, the report states.

The settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prevents an occupying power from transferring its own population into occupied territory, the report states.

"The transfer of Israeli citizens into the Occupied Palestinian Territories, prohibited under international humanitarian law and international criminal law, is a central feature of Israel's practices and policies," it adds.

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