US set to sanction an entire IDF battalion with a history of alleged human rights abuses on the West Bank, report says

  • The US is set to sanction an IDF unit following reported human rights abuses, Axios reports.

  • The Netzah Yehuda battalion was implicated in the death of an 80-year-old US citizen in 2022.

  • Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried the US decision, calling it  "a moral low."

The US is poised to sanction a controversial battalion in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for reported human rights abuses, Axios reported.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to announce sanctions against the Netzah Yehuda battalion for alleged human rights violations in the occupied West Bank.

It would be the first time the US has imposed sanctions on an Israeli military unit. The battalion is composed of over 900 soldiers.

The news of the possible sanctioning of the IDF unit came as the House of Representatives on Saturday passed a bill that includes more than $14 billion in military aid to Israel as well as $9 billion in humanitarian assistance, much of which will go to Gaza.

The unprecedented sanctions will prohibit the battalion and its members from receiving US military assistance or training.

The imposed measures are in accordance with the 1997 Leahy vetting policy, which forbids US foreign aid and Defense Department training programs from going to foreign security, military, and police units credibly alleged to have committed human rights violations.

In 2022, the State Department requested the US embassy interview Israelis and Palestinians about the battalion's conduct in the West Bank following reports of abuse of Palestinians, the Israeli outlet Haaretz, reported.

Last month, a State Department panel recommended that Blinken disqualify multiple Israeli military and police units operating in the West Bank from receiving US aid, ProPublica reported.

Blinken confirmed on Friday that he had made determinations based on this investigation and stated, "You can expect to see them in the days ahead" regarding the sanctions, per Axios.

Senior members of the Israeli government pushed back at the potential sanctions move against the Netzah Yehuda battalion.

"Sanctions must not be imposed on the Israel Defense Forces," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on X.

"At a time when our soldiers are fighting the monsters of terror, the intention to impose a sanction on a unit in the IDF is the height of absurdity and a moral low," he wrote.

Minister of Defense Benny Gantz wrote on X that the Netzah Yehuda battalion was "an inseperable part of the Israel Defence Forces."

Radical settlers

Israeli settlers hold a protest march.
Israeli settlers hold a protest march from Tapuach Junction in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 10, 2023.REUTERS/Nir Elias

The Netzah Yehuda unit, part of the Kfir brigade, was originally set up in 1999 to accommodate the religious beliefs of recruits from ultra-Orthodox and national religious communities, including those from extremist settlements.

All of its members are men. The unit has a reputation for recruiting some radical settlers who are not accepted by other IDF formations, said Axios.

Historically, the Netzah Yehuda battalion has been primarily deployed in the West Bank, gaining notoriety for its treatment of Palestinians.

Notably, soldiers from the unit were accused in the death of Omar Assad, an 80-year-old US citizen, who died of a heart attack in 2022 after being detained, bound, gagged, and abandoned by members of the battalion.

While Israel has deployed the Netzah Yehuda battalion out of the West Bank since the incident, the unit has continued to serve— primarily in the country's north and in the Gaza Strip during the ongoing conflict with Hamas.

Business Insider contacted the State Department for comment.

Washington gives $3.8 billion in annual military assistance to Israel and has remained a steadfast ally throughout Israel's military campaign against Gaza, which has killed over 30,000 Palestinians.

Read the original article on Business Insider