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30 Apr, 2024 01:28

US accuses Israeli army units of human rights violations

Washington will continue providing unfettered military aid to West Jerusalem despite concluding that abuses were committed
US accuses Israeli army units of human rights violations

The US government has determined that at least five Israeli units committed gross violations of human rights prior to the latest war with Hamas, but Washington has no plans to impose sanctions or restrict military aid to West Jerusalem.

Monday’s announcement marks the first time Washington has leveled such accusations against Israeli troops. All of the allegations stem from incidents that occurred in the West Bank long before the Israel-Hamas war began in Gaza last October.

All of the accused Israeli units remain eligible for American aid, despite a law prohibiting the US from providing weapons or other assistance to groups that are found to have committed human rights violations with impunity.

The Biden administration remains in compliance with the so-called Leahy Law because Israel has taken action against most of the units accused of wrongdoing, State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters in Washington, without identifying the units by name.

“Four of these units have effectively remediated these violations, which is what we expect partners to do,” he said. As for the fifth unit, the spokesman said US officials are consulting with their Israeli counterparts on addressing the abuses. “We are engaging with them in a process, and we will make an ultimate decision when it comes to that unit when that process is complete.”

The State Department offered no information on what actions were taken by the Israeli government.

Asked why the department had waited for ten days to disclose its findings against Israel, Patel cited an “ongoing process.” He added, “If at any point remediation efforts or things like that are found to be inconsistent with the standards that we find, there of course will be a restriction on applicable US assistance. We intend to be an administration that’s going to follow the laws prescribed.” 

Media reports said the abuses included “extrajudicial killings” by Israeli border police, as well as torture and rape. Another case involved an elderly Palestinian-American man who died after being bound and gagged at a West Bank checkpoint. The battalion involved in that incident, Netzah Yehuda, was formed in 1999 to accommodate ultra-Orthodox Jews and other religious nationalists in the Israeli army. It was transferred to the Golan Heights from the West Bank in 2022.

Israeli forces have come under increased international scrutiny amid the current conflict in Gaza, which has left more than 34,000 Palestinians dead, according to the enclave’s authorities. The International Court of Justice issued a ruling in January saying it was “plausible” that Israeli forces had committed acts of genocide in Gaza.

Following reports that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was preparing to announce sanctions over rights abuses committed by Netzah Yehuda, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it would be “the height of absurdity” to punish his nation’s forces at a time when they are “fighting terrorist monsters.”

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