The U.N. human rights office is calling for impartial independent investigations into weeks of escalating violence in Palestinian territory and Israel.

Dozens of Palestinians have been killed or injured, and hundreds arrested by Israeli security forces over the past month.  Escalating violence also has resulted in the deaths of 12 Israelis and two foreign nationals by Palestinians in the most serious attacks in Israel in many years.

U.N. human rights officials are expressing deep concern about the escalating violence and by what they deem an excessive use of force by Israeli security forces. For example, last weekend Israeli security forces injured about 180 Palestinians, including at least 27 children. The violence occurred during tensions in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, a holy site for both Muslims and Jews.

Human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said numerous videos taken at the time have raised serious concerns about the conduct of the Israelis, which some say is widespread, unnecessary, and indiscriminate.

“A number of Palestinians, including elderly, women, children and at least one journalist, who did not appear to pose any threat to Israeli security forces, were beaten with batons and were shot with sponge-tipped bullets from close range,” she said. “Many sustained broken bones. Some were injured from stun grenades including some directly striking their heads.”  

Following the violence at the Al Aqsa Mosque, Palestinian armed groups in Gaza launched six rockets and one mortar shell toward Israel between April 18 and 21.    Israel responded by striking militant sites across the Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported in either Israel or Gaza.

The U.N. human rights office echoed the call of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for calm and urged investigations where people have been killed or injured. 

Shamdasani noted the concerns raised using excessive and deadly force by Israeli security forces are not new.

“These are concerns we have been raising now with the Israeli authorities for many years now,” she said. “And they are concerns that have been mentioned in High Commissioner reports, in the human rights council, in procedures and statements.  And in bi-lateral discussions with them.”  

Shamdasani said Israeli authorities reportedly have launched investigations in a couple of instances. She said she hopes they will not lack the transparency of previous inquiries. She warned further cycles of violence will continue if the investigations do not result in accountability and justice for the victims.

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