Settler violence in the West Bank is escalating, said the UN on Tuesday, with the tacit and explicit support of Israeli security forces.

The UN voiced grave concern Tuesday over escalating violence in the West Bank, demanding that Israeli security forces “immediately” stop supporting settler attacks on Palestinians in the occupied territory.

With the Gaza war raging, the United Nations rights office decried that Palestinians in the West Bank had been “subjected to waves of attacks by hundreds of Israeli settlers, often accompanied or supported by Israeli Security Forces (ISF).”

“The Israeli Security Forces must immediately end their active participation in and support for settler attacks on Palestinians,” rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.

According to a Human Rights Watch report published on Wednesday, Israeli Security Forces have actively participated in recent settler violence.

“The evidence shows that armed settlers, with the active participation of army units, raided Palestinian communities, detained, assaulted and tortured residents, chased them out of their homes at gunpoint or coerced them to leave with death threats.”

Human Rights Watch spoke to witnesses of attacks and viewed videos that showed harassment by men in Israeli military uniforms carrying M16 assault rifles.

Following October 7, the Israeli military called up 5,500 settlers who are  reservists, including some with criminal records of violence against Palestinians, and assigned them to West Bank “defense” battalions. The authorities distributed 7,000 guns to battalion members established in settlements, according to Haaretz.

Shamdasani pointed out that following the killing of a 14-year-old Israeli boy from a settler family during the weekend, “Four Palestinians, including a child, were killed and Palestinian property was destroyed in revenge attacks.”

Shamdasani stressed that “those reasonably suspected of criminal acts, including murder or other unlawful killings, must be brought to justice through a judicial process that complies with international human rights standards, following a prompt, impartial, independent, effective and transparent investigation.”

The UN rights office, she said, had received information that “armed settlers and Israeli forces” had entered a number of towns and villages.

“Dozens of Palestinians were reportedly injured, including through the use of firearms, by settlers and ISF, and hundreds of homes and other buildings, as well as cars, were torched,” she said.

“Three Israeli soldiers suffered injuries after they were hit with stones,” she added.

The UN also highlighted reports that settlers had established at least two new outposts in recent days in the Jordan Valley and South Hebron Hills.

The outposts, she said, were “near Palestinian communities which have been repeatedly attacked by settlers in the past months and are at imminent risk of being forcibly transferred from their homes and land.”

“Israel, as the occupying power, must take all measures in its power to restore and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety in the occupied West Bank,” she said.

“This obligation includes protecting Palestinians from settler attacks and ending unlawful use of force against Palestinians by the ISF.”

The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has seen a surge in violence since early last year, particularly since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in Gaza on October 7.

At least 468 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers across the West Bank since October 7, according to official Palestinian sources.

With AFP