For the first time, the Israeli Army could be punished for its actions in the occupied West Bank, where almost 500 Palestinians have died since the start of the war in the Gaza Strip six and a half months ago – even before October, 2023 had been one of the deadliest years in that territory where Palestinians coexist with more than half a million settlers.

This Sunday, Israeli troops concluded a raid that lasted more than two days and left 14 dead in the Nur Shams refugee camp, in the northwest of the West Bank. The neighborhood of the town of Tulkarem has been devastated after one of the most brutal operations by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in this occupied territory, according to witnesses, who reported how the military had caused great destruction with bulldozers. and their armored vehicles.

For now, the European Union (EU) and the United States have approved sanctions against radical Israeli settlers for their attacks and harassment of Palestinians, but they have not yet directly targeted the Israeli Army and its operations in the West Bank, at a time when they are more evident are the abuses committed by soldiers in Gaza – which have been documented and denounced by independent sources, and have been captured in videos of the soldiers themselves. Some NGOs have denounced violations of the rights of Palestinian prisoners and ordinary citizens in the West Bank, of which images recorded with the perpetrators’ cell phones have also emerged.

Last Friday, the EU formally approved sanctions against violent settlers in the West Bank, which only affect four individuals and two radical organizations, Lehava and Hilltop Youth. This Monday, the high representative of European Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, declared that the 27 are going to re-address the sanctions against Israeli settlers because “attacks against Palestinians are also increasing in the West Bank.”

Direct sanctions on an Army battalion

But, from Washington, President Joe Biden’s Administration would also be considering sanctioning the IDF and the Israeli Police that operate in the West Bank, according to government sources cited by the newspaper. Haaretz. Another official Israeli source told the Israeli newspaper that the Americans have alerted their ally about this possibility in recent weeks and have directly targeted two ministers of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government: Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister. Itamar Ben Gvir, himself a settler.

The White House announced last Friday the designation of the far-right Ben Zion Gopstein, close to Ben Gvir, founder and leader of the Lehava organization (sanctioned by the EU) for his involvement in “the destabilizing violence affecting the West Bank.” “We are deeply concerned about the escalation of violence in the West Bank in recent days and urge Israel to take all appropriate measures to prevent attacks by violent extremists and hold those responsible accountable,” the State Department said in a statement. release.

Official US sources revealed to Haaretz that the Biden Administration also plans to announce sanctions against the Netzah Yehuda battalion, which would be the first IDF unit to be subjected to such a measure by Washington. The battalion has been deployed in the West Bank for several years and has been involved in several cases in which Palestinian citizens have been murdered, as highlighted Haaretz.

Also the American media Axios published information about possible sanctions against Netzah Yehuda and assured that “Israeli officials are very concerned because this unprecedented decision may lead to more sanctions against other IDF units.” According to Axios, the sanctions would prohibit both the battalion and its members from receiving any military aid or training from the United States, based on the Leahy law (named after the senator who drafted it in 1997), which establishes that foreign aid cannot be allocated to units foreign private security, police or military personnel who are credibly accused of committing human rights violations.

The Israeli Minister of Defense, Yoav Gallant, met this Monday with the battalion in question and assured that it complies with “the values ​​of the IDF” and acts in accordance with international law. “The commanders and troops of the Netzah Yehuda battalion operate on the front line; Since the outbreak of the war they have been working to expel the forces of the [grupo chií libanés] Hezbollah of the northern border, thwarting terrorism in Judea and Samaria [tal y como denomina Israel los territorios ocupados de Cisjordania] and, more recently, they are operating to dismantle Hamas brigades in Gaza,” Gallant detailed in a statement.

In addition, the Defense Minister reflected the fears that Axios was referring to, citing anonymous sources. “Any attempt to criticize an entire unit casts a heavy shadow” over the others, thus affecting “the entire defense system” of Israel. The battalion is made up exclusively of ultra-Orthodox men, who tend to have radical positions towards Palestinians, Muslims and Christians.

And the abuses committed in Gaza?

Although the US Administration would apply sanctions to Netzah Yehuda for actions that occurred only in the West Bank and before October 7, an Israeli official told Haartez that the Biden Government believes that “Israel has not done enough to investigate the soldiers who have inflicted harm on Palestinian civilians during the war in Gaza.” “They believe that the Army is afraid of punishing violent soldiers and commanders” because of the reaction of Netanyahu’s far-right government, the source added.

The Israeli newspaper states that the US is investigating at least two other units supposedly of the Israel Police, which if sanctioned would no longer be able to receive US equipment or training.

After leaks by different media, Netanyahu condemned the US’s intentions to impose sanctions on an IDF unit, calling them the “height of absurdity.” “If anyone believes they can impose sanctions on an IDF unit, I will fight them with all my might,” the prime minister promised in a statement posted on Twitter this Sunday. “I have been working in recent weeks against sanctions on Israeli citizens, including in my conversations with the US Administration,” he explained. “At a time when our soldiers are fighting terrorist monsters, the intention to impose sanctions against an IDF unit is the height of absurdity and low morale,” he stated.

The Israeli military has not issued any statement about likely US sanctions or the possibility of other battalions or soldiers being punished for their abuses in the Gaza Strip. Since the start of the war, the IDF command has only punished two commanders for their involvement in the attack on a convoy of the NGO World Central Kitchen (WCK), which killed seven of its workers in Gaza in early April. The IDF announced at that time that the commander of the fire support brigade and the top brigade leader would be removed from their positions. In addition, they assured that the brigade commander and the commander of the 162nd Division were going to be formally reprimanded, and the commander of the Southern Command – which operates in that area of ​​the country – would also be reprimanded for “their overall responsibility for the incident.” ”.

No Israeli soldier or military commander has given an explanation or received any punishment for the deaths of thousands of civilians in Gaza, including more than 14,600 minors, according to local authorities. More than 34,000 people have died in the past six and a half months in the Strip, and the Gaza Ministry of Health estimates that more than 70% were women and children, therefore, they were not combatants. Many have perished in attacks considered indiscriminate on their homes, schools, hospitals, religious temples and even bakeries, or from shots fired by Israeli troops against groups of displaced people or crowds collecting humanitarian aid.


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