U.S. Expected to Sanction IDF Unit
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U.S. Expected to Sanction IDF Unit for Human Rights Violations in West Bank

The United States is reportedly planning to impose sanctions on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) “Netzah Yehuda” battalion for alleged human rights violations in the occupied West Bank. If this happens, it would mark the first time the U.S. has taken such action against an Israeli military unit. The sanctions would prohibit the battalion and its members from receiving any form of U.S. military assistance or training.

The basis for these sanctions lies in a 1997 law authored by former Senator Patrick Leahy, which restricts U.S. foreign aid and Defense Department training programs from going to foreign security, military, and police units that are credibly accused of human rights violations. A special panel within the U.S. State Department, created to investigate alleged violations based on the Leahy Law, had reportedly recommended disqualifying multiple Israeli military and police units operating in the West Bank from receiving U.S. aid.

The Role of Antony Blinken

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to announce the sanctions against the Netzah Yehuda unit in the coming days. Blinken has stated that his determinations regarding these units are based on the findings of the panel investigation. While the specific incidents leading to the sanctions occurred before the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, they all took place in the West Bank.

U.S. Sanction IDF

It’s worth noting that several other IDF and police units that were investigated will reportedly not face sanctions as they have taken steps to address and rectify their behavior.

The Netzah Yehuda Battalion

The Netzah Yehuda battalion, formed as a special unit for ultra-orthodox soldiers, has been stationed in the West Bank for several years. The battalion became a destination for many “Hilltop Youth,” young radical right-wing settlers who were not accepted into other combat units within the IDF. The unit has faced previous incidents involving violence against Palestinian civilians, which led to its temporary disqualification from receiving U.S. aid in late 2022.

U.S. Sanction IDF

“The Netzach Yehuda battalion is an integral part of the IDF. He is subject to military law and acts in accordance with international law. The State of Israel has a strong and independent judicial system that knows how to investigate and verify any violation of the law or deviation from the orders of the IDF.”
Minister Beni Ganz

One notable incident involving the Netzah Yehuda battalion was the death of 80-year-old Palestinian American, Assad, in January 2022. Assad was arrested by Netzah Yehuda soldiers at a checkpoint in his village in the West Bank late at night. After he refused to be checked, soldiers handcuffed and gagged him, leaving him on the ground in the cold. He was found dead a few hours later. Following this incident, the battalion was relocated from the West Bank to the Golan Heights in January 2023, as a result of the numerous cases of violence perpetrated by its soldiers against Palestinian civilians.

Response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has strongly opposed the imposition of sanctions on the Israel Defense Forces, particularly during the ongoing conflict with Hamas. He labeled the intention to impose such measures as the “height of absurdity and a moral low.” Netanyahu vowed to take action against these moves, emphasizing that the IDF is fighting against Hamas, a designated terrorist organization.

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