The UN human rights office, OHCHR, on Friday called for a probe into Israel’s response to the escalating violence surrounding the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.
OHCHR Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani stressed that the use of force in law enforcement operations is strictly limited and governed by international norms and standards. “The use of force by Israeli police resulting in widespread injuries among worshippers and staff in and around the Al Aqsa Mosque compound must be promptly, impartially, independently, and transparently investigated,” she told journalists in Geneva.
“Those responsible for any violations should be held to account, and policies and procedures on the use of force reviewed with a view to avoiding any further violations.”
Last weekend, roughly 180 Palestinians, including at least 27 children, were injured by Israeli forces during tensions around the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, a site that is important to both Muslims and Jews.
OHCHR said the conduct of Israeli security forces, as captured in video, raised serious concerns about the widespread, unnecessary, and indiscriminate use of force.
“A number of Palestinians, including elderly, women, children, and at least one journalist, who did not appear to pose any threat to the Israeli security forces in any manner, were beaten with batons or shot with sponge-tipped bullets from close range,” said Ms. Shamdashani.
The Israeli police also reportedly arrested more than 470 people in Jerusalem over the past weekend.
While all reportedly have been released, most were prohibited from entering the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, or the Old City of Jerusalem, in the coming weeks as a condition of release.
The latest developments occurred on Thursday morning when Israeli police reportedly raided the yards of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound to push Palestinians out of the area. Dozens were reportedly confined to the Al Qibli mosque, also on the compound, and six people were injured by sponge-tipped bullets. More violence was reported overnight and into Friday morning, with a journalist, an elderly person, and a paramedic among those injured by Israeli forces.
Ms. Shamdasani said the tension in Jerusalem is also impacting other areas. This week, Palestinian armed groups launched six rockets and one mortar shell toward Israel.
In response, Israel struck several armed groups’ military sites across the Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported in either location. These developments follow weeks of violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel. In the most serious attacks in Israel in many years, 12 Israelis and two foreigners were killed in incidents in Beersheba, Bnei Brak, Hadera, and Tel Aviv.
Ms. Shamdasani said Israel’s intensified military operations in the West Bank, particularly in Jenin, and the use of firearms by Palestinian militants, place Palestinians there at high risk.
Israeli security forces have killed 19 Palestinians so far this month, including three boys and three women. Scores more have been injured. Raids and arrest operations across the West Bank have also intensified, raising serious concerns of excessive use of force, as well as ill-treatment and arbitrary arrests of family members of wanted people.
“Some of the killings, including in particular Israeli security forces shooting at a Palestinian woman in Husan on 10 April, raise serious concerns of excessive use of force and arbitrary deprivation of life,” said Ms. Shamdasani.
“We echo the call of the UN Secretary-General for calm and urge investigations where people have been killed or injured.”