UN urges Israel to stop settler attacks

UN urges Israel to stop settler attacks Geneva: The UN human rights office called on Tuesday for Israel to stop Jewish settlers from attacking Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, accusing the army of failing to restrain settlers while being quick to use force against Palestinians.

Israeli diplomats expressed surprise at the statement, saying it was released without warning and made no mention of violence directed at settlers.

The West Bank and Israel proper have experienced a spike in violence in recent weeks, with hundreds of olive trees uprooted, mosques attacked and Arab cemeteries vandalised.

Extremist settlers are believed to be behind the violence, which they say is the "price tag" for army and government policies that they feel are unfair.

Settlers have also clashed with Israeli soldiers in several instances.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Israel was legally obliged to protect Palestinian civilians and property.

"There appears to be certainly a partial siding with the settlers, and perhaps not intervening strongly enough to protect the Palestinian villagers," Colville told reporters in Geneva.

He cited the fatal shooting of a Palestinian by an Israeli soldier in the West Bank village of Qusra on September 23, the beating of two minors detained by troops the same day, and the uprooting of 200 olive trees in the village on October 6.

"The accountability for settler violence against Palestinians is less than adequate, let's say, and certainly not comparable to the reverse cases," Colville said. "When Palestinians attack settlers there's always very, very strong reaction."

Diplomats at Israel's mission to the United Nations in Geneva rejected the claim.

"Anything can be reported to the Israeli authorities and there will be legal procedures if necessary," Walid Abu-Haya, an Israeli diplomat who deals with human rights matters said.