'They're terrified of the possible results': US considers cutting funds to notorious Israeli army unit

The drive into the village of Jiljiliya is not what you expect on the West Bank. Imposing mansions line the route, with grand gates and lavish decorations.

That's because this is where Palestinian Americans return to build their dream homes after years of hard work in the land of opportunity.

Like Omar Assad who came back after 45 years in Milwaukee. But for him, retirement was neither long nor happy. It was cut brutally short one freezing night in January 2022.

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He was returning from a game of cards when he was stopped at a makeshift checkpoint set up by the notorious Israeli army unit, Netzah Yehuda.

The IDF says he did not cooperate so the 78-year-old was detained with force.

Mraweh Mahmoud was with him.

"They took us down from the car and pushed me by the head," he told Sky News. "The soldier was standing there and put an M16 in my head and said now I'll shoot you."

Mr Assad was tied up, gagged and blindfolded, Mr Mahmoud said, and forced to lie next to him. When the soldiers eventually left Mr Mahmoud realised Mr Assad was dead.

"I took his jacket off his head, I checked there's no pulse, I shouted Omar, Omar," he said.

Palestinian doctors say Mr Assad died in freezing temperatures of a stress-induced heart attack. An Israeli military report condemned the soldiers' "moral failure and poor decision-making".

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No link between death and soldiers' errors, military prosecutors say

Netzah Yehuda's battalion commander was reprimanded and two officers were dismissed but Israeli military prosecutors decided against pursuing criminal charges because they said there was no link between the errors made by soldiers and Mr Assad's death.

But now the unit the soldiers came from is expected to be singled out by the US government and cut off from American funding, in the first-ever such move against any part of the Israeli military.

Reports claim the US State Department will apply the so-called Leahy Law against the unit, which prohibits US assistance to foreign military units guilty of gross human rights violations when their government fails to take sufficient action.

Why has Netzah Yehuda become infamous?

The Netzah Yehuda battalion was set up to help ultra-orthodox Jews serve in the army. It mixes religion and soldiering. But in its ranks are also elements of extremist settler groups.

It has become infamous, implicated in one case of alleged abuse of Palestinians after another, many of which its soldiers have filmed on their own phones. Its soldiers have been prosecuted for human rights violations and accused of unlawful killings, electrocution, torture and sexual assault.

Israel's government has fought a rearguard action against the looming US action.

Its prime minister called the prospect absurd and its defence minister Yoav Galant showed solidarity with the battalion's soldiers this week saying "no one in the world can teach us about morals and values".

But one organisation of ex-soldiers opposed to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories says the Israeli government knows this could be just the beginning of action against its military.

'They're terrified of the possible results'

Ori Givati from the NGO Breaking the Silence told Sky News: "They understand that this might open the Pandora's box of what the occupation really is, and how it looks like to occupy millions with the military.

"And if that Pandora's box will be opened and it is starting to open in recent months, I think they're terrified of the possible results because they want to continue to occupy."

Back in Jilijilya, Mr Assad's family welcomes reports America will act against the soldiers they blame for his death but say that's not enough - they want them brought to justice too.

Nazmia, Mr Assad's widow, said: "God willing it will be good if they do this, but also punish them like what they did with him, arrest them and fire them from their positions."