UN chief tells Israel to halt illegal settlements in Palestine

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on Israel to immediately “cease all settlement activities” in occupied Palestinian territory, describing Israel’s plans to advance the building of Israeli settlements as driving “tensions and violence” and being a major obstacle to a lasting peace.

The UN chief’s comments come after five Palestinians were killed – including a 15-year-old boy – and more than 90 were wounded in the fiercest clashes in years which erupted when Israeli forces raided the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Monday.

In the first such instance in almost 20 years, Israel sent helicopter gunships which fired rockets at targets in Jenin camp while Palestinian fighters fought for hours with small arms and explosive devices that disabled several Israeli military vehicles, trapping troops inside. Eight Israeli soldiers were wounded in the clashes that last nearly 10 hours, according to witnesses.

“The Secretary-General reiterates that settlements are a flagrant violation of international law,” Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the secretary general, said in a statement on Monday.

“The expansion of these illegal settlements is a significant driver of tensions and violence and deepens humanitarian needs,” Haq said.

“It further entrenches Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, encroaches on Palestinian land and natural resources, hampers the free movement of the Palestinian population, and undermines the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and sovereignty,” the UN chief said, according to Haq.