GENEVA (Reuters) - Israeli security forces escorting settlers into West Bank villages appear to have used excessive force against Palestinians, the U.N. human rights office said on Tuesday.
The global body called on the Jewish state to protect Palestinians and investigate a surge of attacks by Israeli settlers against civilians in the West Bank, particularly in the village of Qusra, near Nablus.
The village had been "targeted by settlers" at least six times in six weeks, said Rupert Colville, spokesman for United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
Israeli security forces, known as IDF, shot dead a Palestinian civilian in Qusra on September 23 during clashes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers in which six Palestinians were also injured, he told a news briefing.
"We do have particular concerns about the way the IDF operates in circumstances, particularly in those surrounding this particular village ... They seem to be very quick to resort to excessive force when it comes to the Palestinians and not to restrain the settlers," Colville said.
On the same day as the shooting, two Palestinian minors were detained for two hours and were allegedly beaten and humiliated by IDF soldiers before being released, he said.
On October 6, Palestinians from Qusra discovered at least 200 trees belonging to four families had been cut down, depriving them of their main source of income, he added.
"The accountability for settler violence against Palestinians is less than adequate let's say and certainly not comparable to the reverse cases. When Palestinians attack settlers there's always very, very strong reaction," Colville said.
Israeli police on Sunday said they arrested a second suspect following an arson attack on a mosque blamed on a pro-settler militant group known by its slogan "price tag.
Israel named a special task force to investigate last week's blaze in the Israeli Arab village of Tuba-Zangariya, amid fears it may exacerbate tensions with Palestinians.
The "Price-Taggers," also blamed for other assaults on mosques, have said they want to avenge the killing of settlers, and protest against Israeli efforts to remove unauthorized settlement outposts built on land Palestinians want for a state.
The violence has coincided with rising tensions over a Palestinian application for statehood on West Bank land Israel captured in a 1967 war, filed at the U.N. Security Council last month, despite objections by Israel and the United States.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is due to issue a report in coming days on Israeli settlements, which addresses the lack of accountability for settler violence, said Colville.
"We call on the Government of Israel to fulfill its obligation under international human rights and international humanitarian law to protect Palestinian civilians and property in the occupied Palestinian territory," he said.
"More needs to be done to effectively prevent attacks by settlers against Palestinian civilians and, when they do occur, they should be properly investigated by the Israeli authorities," he said. Victims should be compensated, he added.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens)