US deplores settler violence, slams Israel at UNSC ahead of Biden's visit

US Deputy Ambassador Richard Mills highlighted the recent killings of Ali Hassan Harb and Shireen Abu Akleh and the planned evictions from Masafer Yatta.

 Palestinian Mahmoud Najajreh points at his demolished house, in Masafer Yatta, South of Hebron, in the West Bank, May 31, 2022.  (photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA/REUTERS)
Palestinian Mahmoud Najajreh points at his demolished house, in Masafer Yatta, South of Hebron, in the West Bank, May 31, 2022.
(photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA/REUTERS)

The US condemned Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, as it issued a harsh critique of the Jewish state's actions at the United Nations Security Council, warning that tensions on the ground were “palpable and it is dangerous.”

US Deputy Ambassador Richard Mills highlighted in particular the stabbing death of Ali Hassan Harb, 27, during a violent incident between Israelis and Palestinians near the West Bank city of Ariel, that happened after settlers trespassed onto the Harb family’s property.

Police have arrested two Israelis, due to their possible involvement in the incident.

The US “deplores the escalation of settler violence against Palestinians, including the death of Ali Hassan Harb, a Palestinian in the West Bank who was killed on his family’s agricultural land,” Mills told the UNSC in New York during its monthly debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We take note of the May 2022 OCHA report that found over 1,000 Palestinians were injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces in 2021, seven times the amount of those injured by live ammunition the prior year,” Mills said.

He referenced US President Joe Biden’s planned trip to Israel on July 13, in which he said the American leader would “meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to urge calm and explore ways to promote equal measures of security, freedom, and opportunity for both Israelis and Palestinians. 

“The current US administration continues to affirm its strong support for a two-state solution, which remains the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state alongside a sovereign, viable Palestinian state,” Mills said.

 US PRESIDENT Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One for a flight to Los Angeles this week. If Biden is coming to the Mideast to criticize and slow Israeli building in Judea and Samaria and greater Jerusalem, pull back, says the writer. (credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS) US PRESIDENT Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One for a flight to Los Angeles this week. If Biden is coming to the Mideast to criticize and slow Israeli building in Judea and Samaria and greater Jerusalem, pull back, says the writer. (credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

“The current US administration continues to affirm its strong support for a two-state solution, which remains the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state alongside a sovereign, viable Palestinian state.”

US Deputy Ambassador Richard Mills

In outlining the existing tensions on the ground, he focused largely on Israeli actions, the pending evictions of over 1,000 Palestinians from illegal herding villages in the South Hebron Hills located in IDF Firing Zone 918.

“We are also deeply concerned about the potential evictions at Masafer Yatta, which were upheld by Israel’s Supreme Court,” the ambassador said. “We urge that these evictions not take place.”

Israeli-Palestinian clashes

He referenced the shooting death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering an IDF raid on a Jenin refugee camp in May to search for terror suspects.

The Palestinian Authority has charged that she was killed by IDF fire, but has not released the bullet that hit her, which would allow Israel to conduct the necessary ballistic tests to identify if it had been fired from an IDF gun used by its soldiers during that incident.

“We, like others on this council, are concerned with the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. We continue to stress the importance of accountability for Abu Akleh’s tragic death,” Mills said. 

“The United States will not relent on our calls for transparent accountability for those responsible for this tragedy until justice is done."

Mills linked Hamas’s holding captive the bodies of two IDF soldiers presumed killed during the 2014 Gaza war —  Hadar Goldin and Oren Shaul — with the Israeli practice of withholding the bodies of Palestinian terrorists.

He called for Israelis to refrain from settlement activity and demolitions of illegal Palestinian homes, and for Palestinians to refrain from violence and incitement to violence.

“We are troubled by the ongoing practice of using human remains as a bargaining chip,” Mills said as he recalled that last month, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield met with Hadar’s mother Leah. 

“We continue to be disheartened by the cruelty of denying a family the ability to properly mourn their loved one," Mills said. "Many Palestinian families also know this suffering, as there are Palestinian remains that have similarly not been returned to their families. Human remains must be returned to their families immediately and unconditionally.”

The US, he said, also condemns the Palestinian terror attacks against Israel that claimed at least 18 lives this year and the rocket attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians. 

“The United States has repeatedly registered our outrage over the string of terrorist attacks against Israelis this year. And we condemn the rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip again this month, which – as you note – broke a two-month pause in rocket fire from Gaza," the ambassador said.

“Many Israelis, especially those who reside close to the border with Gaza, live in perpetual fear that they or their families could come under attack at any time. This must stop.”