UN rapporteur 'very concerned' by Israel live fire

More than 200 Palestinians have been killed since October 2015, most of them while carrying out attacks, often equipped with knives, such as in this situation October 19, 2016 (AFP Photo/Jaafar Ashtiyeh) (AFP/File)

Jerusalem (AFP) - The United Nations special rapporteur to the occupied Palestinian territories said Thursday he was "very concerned" by Israel's use of live fire in dealing with Palestinian knife attackers.

"Lethal force is supposed to be used as a last resort and only when there is a legitimate threat to a security officer's life," Michael Lynk, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, told AFP.

Lynk, who took over the role in March and has so far been denied a visa to visit, said this rule was "being neglected."

More than 200 Palestinians have been killed since October 2015, most of them while carrying out attacks -- often equipped with knives. Thirty-six Israelis have been killed during the same period.

Israel has dismissed allegations of excessive force in most cases, saying its officers do only what is necessary to protect lives.

Lynk compared the shootings of Palestinian attackers in the West Bank to that of an ultra-Orthodox Jew who stabbed six people at a Gay Pride march in Jerusalem in 2015, killing one.

In that case the attacker was wrestled to the ground.

"He was actually brought down and wasn't actually physically harmed in any way," Lynk said in a phone interview with AFP shortly after the release of his first report.

"If that kind of force can be used to neutralise an attacker with a knife, why can't that be used with most of the alleged Palestinian assailants in similar circumstances?"

A United Nations report last month said that of the Palestinians injured by Israelis in 2016, 14 percent were hurt by live ammunition, up from four percent in 2013.

Lynk added that he was concerned that "lone wolf violence" from Palestinians was being driven by a growing hopelessness at their situation.

"When you look at the larger picture, with no hope on the horizon for a peace process, with deteriorating economic circumstances, it becomes clear that there is a nexus, a relationship, or a connection between these kinds of attacks -- deplorable as they may be -- and the much larger economic, social and political circumstances."

Israel has long accused the special rapporteur position of being inherently biased as it is only mandated to investigate alleged Israeli abuses.

The Jewish state has used this as justification for not cooperating with investigations, refusing the previous two occupants of the role permission to visit.

Lynk, too, has so far been refused a visa and he said Israeli officials have also refused his offer to meet in North America, where the Canadian is based as a law professor at Western University in Ontario.

Lynk said the idea of extending his mandate to include rights abuses by all sides was "something I am open to and am considering."

He called on the Israeli government to meet him to discuss the matter.

Any extension would then need to be approved by the UN Human Rights Council.