Israel’s Netanyahu says he will fight any sanctions on army battalions

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he would fight against sanctions being imposed on any Israeli military units for alleged rights violations, after media reports said Washington was planning such a step.

Axios news site on Saturday reported that Washington was planning to impose sanctions on Israel’s Netzah Yehuda battalion, which has operated in the occupied West Bank, though the Israeli military said it was not aware of any such measures.

On Friday, the United States announced a new series of sanctions linked to Israeli settlers in the West Bank, in the latest sign of growing US frustration with the policies of Netanyahu, whose coalition government relies on settler parties.

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“If anyone thinks they can impose sanctions on a unit of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) - I will fight it with all my strength,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

The State Department declined comment beyond remarks made on Friday by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Blinken said he had made “determinations” regarding accusations that Israel violated a set of US laws that prohibit providing military assistance to individuals or security force units that commit gross violations of human rights.

Earlier this week, the Pro Publica investigative news organization reported that a special State Department panel known as the Israel Leahy Vetting Forum had recommended months ago to Blinken that multiple Israeli military and police units be disqualified from receiving US aid, after allegations of human rights violations.

On the rise

The incidents that were the subject of allegations took place in the West Bank and mostly occurred before Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza began on Oct. 7, the outlet said.

Before the Gaza war, violence had already been on the rise in the West Bank, land that the Palestinians seek for a state, and it has risen since with frequent Israeli raids, Palestinian street attacks and settler rampages in Palestinian villages.

The Israeli military said the Netzah Yehuda battalion is an active combat unit that operates according to the principles of international law.

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“Following publications about sanctions against the battalion, the IDF is not aware of the issue,” the military said. “If a decision is made on the matter it will be reviewed. The IDF works and will continue to work to investigate any unusual event in a practical manner and according to law.”

In 2022, Netzah Yehuda’s battalion commander was reprimanded and two officers were dismissed over the death of an elderly Palestinian-American whom the unit’s soldiers had detained in the West Bank, an incident that stirred concern in Washington.

There have been several other incidents in recent years, some captured on video, in which Netzah Yehuda soldiers were accused of or charged with abusing Palestinian detainees.

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