US imposes sanctions on two Israeli settler West Bank outposts

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The Biden administration imposed sanctions on two Israeli outposts and three settlers it accused of undermining stability in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, the latest move against activity it calls an obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The State Department said the outposts known as Moshe’s Farm and Zvi’s Farm had been bases for violence against Palestinians.

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“There is no justification for extremist violence against civilians or forcing families from their homes, whatever their national origin, ethnicity, race, or religion,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

The administration in February imposed sanctions on four Israeli men it accused of being involved in settler violence in the West Bank, signalling growing US displeasure with the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

While voicing growing frustration with the Palestinian civilian toll from Israel’s war against Hamas, Washington has repeatedly asked Israel to hold violent settlers accountable and complained that its actions allowing settlement expansion diminish hopes for a two-state solution.

The sanctions typically freeze any US assets of those targeted and generally bar Americans from dealing with them, but it was not immediately clear how they would affect the outposts.

Israeli banks said in February they were heeding the sanctions, despite Israeli government opposition, and the targeted settlers reported their bank accounts had been frozen.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who lives in a West Bank settlement, said on Thursday the sanctions were part of a “campaign designed to tarnish the entire State of Israel and lead to the dismantling of the settlement enterprise and the establishment of a Palestinian terrorist state.”

Washington has also said it will issue visa bans against settlers it deems extremist.

The administration said last month that Israeli settlements in the West Bank were inconsistent with international law, signalling a return to a longstanding US policy that had been reversed by the previous administration of Donald Trump.

Since the 1967 Middle East war, Israel has occupied the West Bank of the Jordan River, which Palestinians want as the core of a future independent state. Israel has built Jewish settlements, many of which began as unauthorized outposts.

Israel disputes this and cites historical and biblical ties to the land.

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Thursday’s sanctions targeted Moshe Sharvit, who has “harassed, threatened, and attacked” Palestinian civilians near the Moshe’s Farm outpost, of which he is the founder and owner, the State Department said.

Also targeted were Zvi Bar Yosef, founder of Zvi’s Farm, and Neriya Ben Pazi, who has expelled Palestinian shepherds from hundreds of acres of land, it said.

Reuters was unable immediately to reach the three for comment.

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