'Annexation is illegal. Period': UN rights chief warns Israel against West Bank move
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The United Nations top human rights official Michelle Bachelet called on Israel on Monday to halt its "illegal" plans to annex part of occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank and warned it could lead to deadly clashes.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to extend Israeli sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the territory has drawn condemnation from the Palestinians, US Arab allies and other foreign governments. His cabinet is due to begin formal annexation deliberations on Wednesday, July 1.
"Annexation is illegal. Period,” Bachelet said in a statement. "I am deeply concerned that even the most minimalist form of annexation would lead to increased violence and loss of life, as walls are erected, security forces deployed and the two populations brought into closer proximity."
Bachelet urged Israel to "listen to its own former senior officials and generals, as well as to the multitude of voices around the world, warning it not to proceed along this dangerous path."
International condemnation of the possible Israeli annexations has mounted ahead of July 1, when the Jewish state could take its first steps toward implementing part of a US-proposed Middle East peace plan.
US President Donald Trump's proposals, rejected outright by the Palestinians, pave the way for annexing key parts of the West Bank, including settlements long considered illegal by the majority of the international community.
Bachelet urged Israel to shift course, warning that "the shockwaves of annexation will last for decades, and will be extremely damaging to Israel, as well as to the Palestinians".
Israel's foreign ministry reacted angrily to the statement, arguing that it was "not the first time" that Bachelet "has politicised her office against Israel, in a one-sided manner."
The UN rights chief meanwhile stressed that there was still time to reverse the annexation plans.
The precise consequence of the move were difficult to predict, she said. "But they are likely to be disastrous for the Palestinians, for Israel itself, and for the wider region."
The UN rights chief warned that "any attempt to annex any part of the occupied Palestinian territory will not only seriously damage efforts to achieve lasting peace in the region, it is likely to entrench, perpetuate and further heighten serious human rights violations that have characterised the conflict for decades".
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
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