Western nations, EU urge Israel to halt settler violence

PARIS: Western nations and the European Union Friday urged Israel to "take concrete steps to halt unprecedented violence by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank," in a joint statement published by France's foreign ministry.

The call from Australia, Britain, Canada, France, the European Union and several other European countries – but notably excluding Germany and the United States – highlighted "an unprecedented number of attacks perpetrated by extremist settlers" since early October that they said had claimed eight Palestinian lives and wounded 83 people.

Reiterating that Israel's settlement policy "is illegal under international law," the signatories of Friday's statement said that "as the occupying power, Israel must protect Palestinian civilians in the West Bank" and "bring those responsible for this violence to justice."

Friday's statement comes days after EU chief Ursula von der Leyen backed imposing sanctions on "extremist" Israeli settlers – although not all of the bloc's 27 nations agree.

While some members such as Spain have sharply criticised Israel's response to Hamas' October 7 attack, others including Germany stand firmly behind the state.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and in recent months troops have carried out repeated deadly raids on the Jenin refugee camp in the territory's north.

More than 280 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers in the West Bank since the war in Gaza erupted on October 7, health officials say.

Over the same period, more than 18,700 people have been killed in the Israeli offensive on Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run besieged Palestinian territory.

The war broke out with an attack by Hamas on southern Israel, which Israeli officials say killed around 1,200 people and saw some 240 people taken hostage, of whom 105 have been released and several killed.

Most of those killed in both Israel and the Palestinian territories have been civilians.-AFP

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