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21 Apr, 2024 07:23

Potential US sanctions on IDF ‘absurd’ – Netanyahu

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to make a decision soon regarding an ultra-orthodox Israeli military unit
Potential US sanctions on IDF ‘absurd’ – Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rebuked reported US plans to sanction an Israeli military unit composed primarily of ultra-Orthodox Jews which is under investigation for alleged human rights abuses against Palestinians. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to announce sanctions on the Netzah Yehuda Battalion over alleged violations committed in the West Bank, US news site Axios wrote on Saturday, citing three anonymous US sources.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday, Netanyahu condemned the idea of sanctioning the IDF, adding that he has been in touch with US officials to work against the potential decision. At a time when the IDF is “fighting terrorist monsters,” this intention is “the height of absurdity and a moral low,” he wrote, saying his government will act “by all means against these moves.”

The secretary of state was questioned on Israeli human rights violations in a press conference in Italy on Friday. “You’ll see results very soon. I’ve made determinations; you can expect to see them in the days ahead,” Blinken told journalists. He added that the US applies the Leahy Law “across the board,” and that it’s been gathering facts of the matter and analyzing them.

The Leahy Law – named after its principal sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy – prohibits the Departments of State and Defense from extending military assistance to foreign armies and law enforcement units that are proven to have flagrantly violated human rights. Should the sanctions go through, the unit will be banned from receiving any kind of US training or material assistance.

According to one of Axios’ sources, the determination was based on incidents that occurred prior to the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel. One of the cases which brought attention to the unit was the 2022 death of 78-year-old Omar Assad, who was detained by Netzah Yehuda soldiers at a checkpoint in the West Bank, zip-tied, gagged, and left in a parking lot in the winter. An autopsy by three Palestinian physicians, noting injuries on his arms and legs, gave the cause of death as cardiac arrest from psychological stress resulting from physical violence, Israeli newspaper Haaretz said at the time.

According to the newspaper, the unit was redeployed to the Golan Heights in Syria in January last year after a “relatively large number of incidents” in which soldiers were arrested for beating Palestinians.

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