US sanctions Israeli extremist group for blocking Gaza aid

US sanctions Israeli extremist group for blocking Gaza aid
The US imposed sanctions on extremist group Tzav 9 which blocked vital humanitarian aid from passing through the Karem Abu Salem border crossing.
3 min read
15 June, 2024
Right-wing Israeli protesters block the road to Jordanian trucks carrying humanitarian aid supplies arriving on the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on April 16, 2024 [Getty]

The US imposed sanctions on the extremist Israeli group Tzav 9 on Friday, accusing them of obstructing aid convoys and engaging in looting and arson of trucks attempting to deliver humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Since Israel's war on Gaza broke out, various Israeli activists and extremists have been obstructing aid deliveries to Gaza, amidst an already catastrophic humanitarian situation in the enclave which has left many parts on the brink of famine.

 Tzav 9, formed in December of last year to block aid to Gaza, were gathering for months at the Nitzana and Kareem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossings to block the entry of supplies such as food, fuel, water, into the besieged enclave.

"Individuals from Tzav 9 have repeatedly sought to thwart the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, including by blockading roads, sometimes violently," the US State Department said.

"They also have damaged aid trucks and dumped life-saving humanitarian aid onto the road."

The State Department statement said that on 13 May, Tzav 9 members looted and set fire to two trucks in the West Bank carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza.

"The provision of humanitarian assistance is vital to preventing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza from worsening and to mitigating the risk of famine," it said.

The US State Department added they would not tolerate "acts of sabotage and violence targeting this essential humanitarian assistance".

Israel cut off all water, electricity, fuel and food supplies off for Gaza since October, with the government further restricting and impeding essential aid deliveries. At least 30 people have died from malnutrition and dehydration in Gaza so far, according to Palestinian health officials.

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Tsav 9 - Hebrew for Order 9, a reference to call-up orders for Israeli military reservists - said after the 13 May incident it acted to stop supplies from reaching Hamas and accused the Israeli government of giving "gifts" to the group.

Despite Western outlets labelling the group being as family members of captives held in Gaza, the majority came from the far-right settler movement.

Speaking to The New Arab in February, Palestine and Palestinian-Israeli Affairs fellow at the Middle East Institute Eyal Lurie-Pardes said that those physically obstructing aid trucks are frequently linked to the far-right Israeli Religious Zionism party, headed by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

He also noted that the groups advocating for the return of captives are associated with the Israeli centere-left and are involved in protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial overhaul plans.

The announcement of sanctions against the group came just a day after Israeli media reported that Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai claimed far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir had exerted pressure to stop law enforcement from safeguarding aid convoys to Gaza.

The sanctions freeze the group's assets in the United States and generally bar American citizens from conducting transactions with them.

These measures were enacted under an executive order issued by President Biden, which establishes a legal framework for US penalties targeting individuals and entities that are deemed to be "undermining peace, security, and stability" in the occupied West Bank.

This executive order is part of broader efforts by the US to address and mitigate actions that threaten the region's stability and peace process.

This comes as a US-backed proposal for a ceasefire deal, with global support, aims to gradually move to a permanent end to hostilities.

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a US-based human rights group, this week called for US sanctions on Tsav 9 and said the group raises funds from Israeli companies and Israeli and US non-profit organizations.

DAWN said in a statement that such vigilante groups have enjoyed impunity from Israeli authorities.

Palestinians and human rights groups have long accused the Israeli military and police of deliberately failing to intervene when settlers attack Palestinians in the West Bank.

Israel arrested four of those involved in the 13 May attack, including a minor, according to lawyers.

"We'll continue to use all tools at our disposal to promote accountability for those who attempt to undertake or perpetrate such heinous acts," Forsberg said.

"We have raised this at all levels of the government of Israel and we expect that Israeli authorities will do the same."

Press agencies contributed to this piece.