US looking to sanctions more Israeli military units after Netzah Yehuda: reports

US looking to sanctions more Israeli military units after Netzah Yehuda: reports
Washington's sanctions would see Israeli military units accused of violations against Palestinians prohibited from accessing US training and weapons.
3 min read
22 April, 2024
Israeli military units in Gaza could be investigated and impacted by US sanctions, sources said [Getty/file photo]

The US is reportedly considering sanctioning more Israeli military units over human rights violations, following an announcement on Saturday that Washington would take measures against the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, which is made up of ultra-Orthodox Jews and extremist settlers.

The decision is set to be made this week, US sources told The Times of Israel on Monday, though there was no information on which units would be impacted units. 

The US has reportedly been investigating the Netzah Yehuda and other military units over human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank for over a year.

The sources however added that Washington’s investigation could also extend towards military units operating in the Gaza Strip during Israel's indiscriminate war, as many testimonies, images and videos have emerged over the past six months documenting atrocities against Gazans.

As of Monday, Israel has killed at least 34,151 Palestinians since the war began on October 7, mostly women and children. Israeli soldiers have also arbitrarily detained Gazans, executed them, and looted slain civilians’ homes, among other abuses.

Since Israel began its occupation of the West Bank in 1967, Israeli soldiers and settlers have subjected Palestinians to a range of abuses including assault, killings, and home demolition.

If the US proceeds with sanctions, the impacted army units will not be able to use US military aid to purchase weapons, though the Israeli government can use its own funds to buy arms, a US official said, pointing out the sanctions' potential inefficiency. 

Another official added that other Western countries could follow suit in sanctioning Israeli army units that brutally target Palestinians.

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Earlier this year, the US began levying sanctions on Israeli settlers over violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. Neighbouring Canada said it may impose similar penalties on settlers accused of such conduct, while Belgium said it will ban extremist settlers from entering the country.

The introduction of such sanctions comes under what is known as the Leahy Law, which prohibits Washington from supplying military assistance to police or army units who have carried out human rights violations and have not been brought to justice.

Despite such moves, the US – Israel’s long-term ally – continues to financially support Tel Aviv during its war in Gaza. Washington has signed multiple aid and military deals worth billions intended for Israel.

On Saturday, Congress approved a $13 billion aid package to Israel.

Additionally, despite sporadic criticisms and warnings over the high death toll and other incidents in Gaza, the US has supported what it calls Israel’s "right to defend itself".

The US decision to pursue the sanctions has promoted angry statements from Israeli politicians of various persuasions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the move "the height of absurdity and moral degradation", while extreme-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said the decision is "part of a planned step to force the State of Israel to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state and give up Israel’s security."

The Netzah Yehuda battalion is made up of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and extremist settlers and have been at the centre of many abuse cases in the West Bank - notably that of 78-year-old Palestinian-American Omar Assad two years ago. The octogenarian was detained, handcuffed and gagged in freezing conditions before dying of a cardiac arrest in January 2022.