Belgium to ban extremist Israeli settlers from entry amid surge in West Bank violence
De Croo stressed that "violence against civilians will have consequences," in a reference to Palestinians in the West Bank who are subject to attacks, abuse and other forms of brutality on a regular basis in the occupied territory.
The Belgian premier made the declaration during a speech at the University of Ghent, and said the decision to prohibit such settlers from entering the country comes as the US announced that it would impose travel bans on individuals accused of taking part in violence in the West Bank.
"We will work with the United States on these sanction measures, and we will push the European Union to follow suit," he said.
Violence against civilians will have consequences.— Alexander De Croo 🇧🇪🇪🇺 (@alexanderdecroo) December 6, 2023
Extremist settlers in the West Bank will be banned from entering Belgium.
We will work with the U.S. on sanctions targeting individuals involved in actions that undermine peace, security, and stability in the West Bank. pic.twitter.com/LVo2hgEMH8
The move sanctioning Israeli settlers is the first of its kind by Washington, though critics have said that the decision is "a little too late" and "insufficient" given the level of violence in the West Bank this year.
Dual Israeli-American nationals will not be impacted by the travel ban, according to Time Magazine.
The sanctions on settlers come as the West Bank has witnessed a sharp uptick in Israeli army raids and settler violence since the start of Tel Aviv’s brutal military onslaught of the Gaza Strip on October 7.
Over 250 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied territory in the past two months, while Israeli strikes have killed over 16,000 Palestinians in Gaza since the outbreak of the war.
In his speech, De Croo also stressed Brussels’ demands for Israeli restraint in the Gaza Strip, the respect for international humanitarian law, as well as unhindered humanitarian access.
In November, De Croo suggested that the EU should consider barring extremist settlers who call for violence against Palestinians from entering the European continent. The premier branded the lack of action against such settlers as "unacceptable."
Last month, the prime minister condemned Israel’s bombing of several refugee camps in the Strip, calling them "no longer proportional" and a "bridge too far".
Despite criticism of Israeli violence in both Gaza and the West Bank, Belgium has expressed support for Israel's "right to defend itself".
Israel has waged a ferocious military campaign in Gaza since October 7, indiscriminately bombarding residential buildings, hospitals, schools and other important infrastructure. At least 16,248 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli strikes, including thousands of women and children.
Thousands are also feared trapped under rubble, amid alarm over the spread of diseases that could increase the death toll in the war-battered territory.