AFP4 June 2024 | 10:20

UN decries 'unfathomable' numbers killed in West Bank since October 7

Palestinian officials have given a toll of at least 523.

UN decries 'unfathomable' numbers killed in West Bank since October 7

Palestinians run after Israeli soldiers retreated taking the body of one of two Palestinians killed during clashes with the soldiers following a raid on the Balata refugee camp, in the Israeli occupied Palestinian West Bank on 3 June 2024. Picture: AFP

GENEVA - The UN rights chief demanded Tuesday an end to surging violence in the occupied West Bank, saying it was "unfathomable" that more than 500 Palestinians had been killed there since October 7.

Volker Turk said at least 505 Palestinians had been killed in the West Bank by the Israeli military and by West Bank settlers since the war in nearby Gaza erupted nearly eight months ago.

Palestinian officials have given a toll of at least 523.

Two dozen Israelies, including eight soldiers, have also been killed in West Bank clashes or alleged attacks by Palestinians from the West Bank during the same period, he said.

"As if the tragic events in Israel and then Gaza over the past eight months were not enough, the people of the occupied West Bank are also being subjected to day-after-day of unprecedented bloodshed," he said in a statement.

"It is unfathomable that so many lives have been taken in such a wanton fashion."

Turk insisted "the killing, destruction and widespread human rights violations are unacceptable, and must cease immediately".

"Israel must not only adopt but enforce rules of engagement that are fully in line with applicable human rights norms and standards," he said, demanding accountability for all alleged unlawful killings.

Turk decried the "pervasive impunity for such crimes" in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, and which had seen a surge in violence even before October 7.

He pointed to a case over the weekend in which Israeli forces shot dead a teenager and critically injured another who later died near the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho in the West Bank.

He said CCTV footage indicated that the boys were shot at a distance of 70 metres while running away after throwing stones and/or Molotov cocktails towards a military post.

Turk's statement said that the Israeli military had often used lethal force "as a first resort against Palestinian protesters ... in cases where those shot clearly did not represent an imminent threat to life".

Turk warned that the violence "against the backdrop of the scale of killing and destruction continuing in Gaza, have instilled fear and insecurity among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank".

The war in Gaza was sparked by Hamas's October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 251 hostages, 120 of whom remain in Gaza, including 41 the army says are dead.

Israel's retaliatory bombardment and ground offensive have to date killed 36,550 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data provided by the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.