US to investigate Israel army's ultra-Orthodox battalion after attacks on Palestinians
The US embassy in Israel will compile an internal report on attacks by members of the Israeli army's ultra-Orthodox battalion on Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank.
The Netzah Yehuda battalion has been accused of gross human rights abuses, including the death of 80-year-old Palestinian-American Omar Assad in the West Bank earlier this year.
Assad was detained at a checkpoint by soldiers from the ultra-Orthodox division on a cold January night, left handcuffed and gagged on the ground by troops who left the scene. The octogenarian died of a cardiac arrest that night.
Soldiers claimed they thought the pensioner was sleeping but the army command ordered an investigation into the incident which resulted in officers from the battalion being reprimanded or dismissed.
Israeli officers told Haaretz that soldiers from that battalion did not view the 80-year-old Palestinian man as a human being.
This incident has led the US State Department to pay close attention to the division, including a recommendation that Netzah Yehuda should spend less time in the West Bank than their current 8 to 10-month posts.
The unit has been accused of multiple other abuses against Palestinian civilians.
This week, Hady Amr from the State Department visited Assad's family in the occupied West Bank.
US diplomats have been compiling reports about Netzah Yehuda and interviewing Palestinians and Israelis to learn more about their conduct, Haaretz reported.
It also comes after Israel finally admitted that its forces were responsible for the fatal shooting of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, as she reported on an Israeli raid in Jenin for Al Jazeera.
Israeli soldiers, including conscripts from regular units, have been accused of gross human rights abuses across the West Bank.
The Netzah Yehuda is a particularly notorious battalion, attracting far-right settlers who would not be admitted by other army units. It is also the only section of the army that does not recruit women, owing to the ultra-Orthodox views of its recruits.
Despite this, Washington remains a firm ally of Israel and is the main weapons supplier of its armed forces, much of it provided by US military aid.