OHCHR spokesman Ravina Shamdasani emphasized that the use of force in law enforcement operations is strictly limited and governed by international norms and standards.
Review policies and procedures
“The use of force by the Israeli police, resulting in widespread injuries among believers and personnel in and around the Al Aqsa Mosque complex, must be investigated immediately, impartially, independently and transparently,‘ she told journalists in Geneva.
“Those responsible for any violations must be held accountable and policies and procedures for the use of force reviewed to prevent further violations.”
Last weekend, about 180 Palestinians, including at least 27 children, were injured by Israeli forces during tensions around the Al Aqsa Mosque, a site important to Muslims and Jews alike.
Beatings and Arrests
OHCHR said the conduct of Israeli security forces, as captured on video, raised serious concerns about the widespread, unnecessary and indiscriminate use of force.
“A number of Palestinians, including the elderly, women, children and at least one journalist, who did not appear to pose a threat to Israeli security forces in any way, were beaten at close range with batons or shot at with sponge bullets. said Ms Shamdashani.
Israeli police also reportedly arrested more than 470 people in Jerusalem over the weekend.
All have reportedly been released, but most were not allowed to enter Al Aqsa Mosque or Jerusalem’s Old City for the next several weeks as a condition of their release.
The latest developments took place on Thursday morning, when Israeli police reportedly raided the yards of the Al Aqsa mosque to evict Palestinians from the area.
Dozens were reportedly locked up at the Al Qibli Mosque, also in the compound, and six people were injured by sponge-tipped bullets.
Overnight, more violence was reported, with a journalist, an elderly person and a paramedic among those injured by Israeli troops.
Impact felt elsewhere
Ms Shamdasani said the tension in Jerusalem affects other areas as well. This week, Palestinian armed groups launched six rockets and one mortar shell at Israel.
In response, Israel attacked the military sites of several armed groups in the Gaza Strip. There were no casualties at either location.
These developments follow weeks of violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel. The worst attacks in Israel in many years killed 12 Israelis and two foreigners in incidents in Beersheba, Bnei Brak, Hadera and Tel Aviv.
Military operations scaled up
Ms Shamdasani said Israel’s intensified military operations in the West Bank, particularly in Jenin, and the use of firearms by Palestinian militants pose a significant risk to Palestinians there.
Israeli security forces have killed 19 Palestinians so far this month, including three boys and three women. There are more injured. Raids and arrest operations in the West Bank have also intensified, raising serious concerns about excessive use of force, as well as ill-treatment and arbitrary arrests of relatives of wanted persons.
“Some of the killings, notably including Israeli security forces shooting at a Palestinian woman in Husan on April 10, raise serious concerns about excessive use of force and arbitrary taking of life,” Ms Shamdasani said.
“We join the UN Secretary General’s call for calm and push for investigations into where people have been killed or injured.”
International action needed
Meanwhile, an independent UN human rights expert has called on the international community to urgently take both short-term and long-term measures to tackle the increasing violence.
“In recent weeks, violence related to Israel’s 55-year occupation of Palestine has increased,”said Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
“International inaction in the face of these new levels of violence will only encourage more of the same.”
Mr Lynk stated that “the level of violence required by Israel to maintain its occupation has steadily increased over the past 16 months.”
Killing and destruction
Last year was the highest number of Palestinian deaths from clashes with Israelis since 2014, he said, while the number of Palestinian children killed as a result of Israeli violence was the highest since the same period.
Mr Lynk reported that in 2021 the number of incidents of settler violence against Palestinians or their properties was the highest since statistics were first collected in 2017. Last year also saw the highest number of Palestinian homes demolished as a result of Israeli orders since 2016. .
The rights expert outlined measures the international community should take, such as ordering Israel to end the 15-year blockade of Gaza; cessation of all settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; and the removal of checkpoints, licensing restrictions and other barriers to Palestinian freedom of movement.
End the occupation
The Special Rapporteur also called on the international community to initiate a rights-based peace process between Israel and Palestine, centered on international law and UN resolutions.
The ultimate goal must be the swift and complete end of the occupation, and the realization of Palestinian self-determination, he said.
“Only by offering a horizon of hope, by the meaningful demand from the international community that the occupation must be completely ended with all deliberate speed, can this alarming increase in violence be reversed.”
Special Rapporteurs such as Mr Lynk receive their mandate from the UN Human Rights Council, which is based in Geneva.
They operate in their individual capacity and are not UN personnel nor are they paid for their work.