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Israel criticizes US plans to sanction IDF unit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other ministers have sharply criticized reports of US plans to sanction an Israeli military unit for alleged human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank.

The allegations implicate members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Netzah Yehuda battalion in the West Bank, a unit established in 1999 made up of religious and ultra-Orthodox Jews. They precede the Hamas-led attacks on October 7.

“Sanctions must not be imposed on the Israel Defense Forces!” Netanyahu posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Saturday (20).

“In recent weeks, I have been working against the imposition of sanctions on Israeli citizens, including in my conversations with senior US government officials. At a time when our soldiers are fighting against the monsters of terror, the intention of imposing a sanction on an IDF unit is the height of absurdity and low morale,” said the prime minister.

“The government led by me will act by all means against these movements,” Netanyahu added.

Reports of the possible sanction came after the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday (17) that violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank increased in 2023 to its highest level since 2006. This had been happening even before the Hamas-led attacks on October 7, HRW said, citing UN data.

Tensions over Israel's military offensive in Gaza have spread to the West Bank. Israeli troops or settlers have killed at least 483 Palestinians since October 7, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

An “inseparable part” of the IDF

“The 'Netzah Yehuda' battalion is an inseparable part of the Israel Defense Forces. It is subject to military law and is responsible for operating in full compliance with international law,” Benny Gantz, a member of Israel's war cabinet, posted on X on Saturday.

Israel has a “strong and independent judicial system that meticulously evaluates any allegations of violations or deviations from IDF orders and code of conduct, and will continue to do so,” Gantz said. “I have great appreciation for our American friends, but the decision to impose sanctions on an IDF unit and its soldiers sets a dangerous precedent and sends the wrong message to our shared wartime enemies… I intend to act to make this decision amended.”

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said: “The decision to impose American sanctions on the IDF while Israel is fighting for its existence is complete madness.”

The IDF said over the weekend that soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda Battalion in Gaza are “professionally and bravely conducting operations in accordance with the IDF Code of Ethics and with full commitment to international law.”

“Reports on sanctions against the Netzah Yehuda Battalion are not currently known to the IDF. If such a decision is made on the matter, its consequences will be reviewed. The IDF remains committed to continuing to examine exceptional incidents professionally and in accordance with the law.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said investigations into the allegations “take time”, adding: “This has to be done very carefully, both in gathering the facts and analyzing them.”

“And that’s exactly what we did. And I think it's fair to say that the results will be seen very soon. I made determinations. They will be seen in the coming days,” he told reporters in Italy on Friday (19).

Blinken gave no indication as to what his determinations are and whether the US will in fact stop funding these units.

Source: CNN Brasil

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