GENEVA — The UN Human Rights Council has set up a panel to probe Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, a move that further irked Israel which said it will bar its access to the sites of inquiry.
Israel severed contacts with the council in March after the 47-member body announced it would investigate the settlements, which are considered illegal under international law, and is blaming the UNHRC for "singling out" Israel.
The council is pressing ahead with the mission, with the appointment on Friday of three independent experts.
"Allow me to reiterate the council's request to Israel ... not to obstruct the process of investigation and to cooperate fully with the mission," said UNHRC president Laura Dupuy Lasserre.
The all-female panel is tasked with carrying out a fact-finding mission "to investigate the implications of the settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem," said Lassere.
The panel is chaired by Christine Chanet of France and includes Unity Dow of Botswana and Asma Jahangir from Pakistan.
"Each has a long track record of impartial, independent, and objective human rights work of the highest calibre," Lasserre said.
Israel's foreign ministry reacted with anger to the mission's establishment, calling it "another blatant expression of the singling out of Israel in the UNHRC and of the uncandid approach that characterizes the Council's dealing with Israel."
The ministry said on Friday that the "disproportionate focus" the UNHRC puts on Israel, while ignoring human rights violations elsewhere, "leads to the contempt and degradation of the important cause of universal human rights."
"In times when (Syrian) president (Bashar al-)Assad's regime massacres thousands of its own people, the UNHRC only dedicates it symbolic time ... while turning its resources to obsessively focus on Israel," the foreign ministry said.
The statement pledged that the mission "will find no cooperation in Israel, and its members will not be allowed to enter Israel and the (Palestinian) territories."
According to the special UN rapporteur for human rights in the occupied territories, Richard Falk, at least 3,500 buildings were under construction in the West Bank in 2011, not including Israeli settlements in annexed east Jerusalem.
Falk said on Monday that such building on Palestinian land "more or less closes the book on the reality and feasibility" of a two-state solution to the conflict.
Peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have been on hold since September 2010, with the Palestinians refusing to resume the discussions without a moratorium on settlement building.
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