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Netanyahu says he will fight any sanctions against army battalions

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he would fight sanctions imposed on Israeli military units over alleged rights abuses, after media reports suggested Washington is planning such a move.

The news site Axios reported on Saturday that Washington planned to impose sanctions on Israel’s Netzah Yehuda Battalion, which operated in the occupied West Bank, although the Israeli military said it was not aware of such measures.

On Friday, the United States announced a series of sanctions related to Israeli settlers in the West Bank, the latest sign of growing American frustration over the policies of Netanyahu, whose coalition government relies on settler parties.

“If anyone thinks he can impose sanctions on any unit of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), I will fight against it with all my might,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz, a centrist former armed forces chief, said in a statement on Sunday that he had spoken to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and asked him to reconsider the matter.

The State Department said Blinken spoke with Gantz and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant about Israel’s security, efforts to ensure the conflict in Gaza does not spread and the need for an immediate ceasefire and an increased flow of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza. The US statements made no mention of sanctions.

Gantz said such sanctions would be a mistake because they would damage Israel’s legitimacy in times of war, and that they were not justified because Israel has an independent legal system and a military that enforces international law.

Blinken said Friday he had taken “firm action” on allegations that Israel has violated a series of U.S. laws that ban providing military assistance to individuals or security forces who commit gross human rights abuses.

Earlier this week, the investigative news organization Pro Publica reported that a special State Department panel known as the Israel Leahy Vetting Forum months ago recommended Blinken disqualify multiple Israeli military and police units from receiving U.S. aid, after accusations of human rights violations. .

EMERGING

The incidents that were the subject of the allegations took place in the West Bank and occurred mainly before Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza began on October 7, the newspaper said.

Before the Gaza war, violence was already increasing in the West Bank, the land the Palestinians seek for a state, and since then violence has increased with frequent Israeli raids, Palestinian street attacks and settler attacks in Palestinian villages.

The Israeli army said the Netzah Yehuda Battalion is an active combat unit that operates in accordance with the principles of international law.

“Following publications regarding sanctions against the battalion, the IDF is not aware of the issue,” the army said. “If a decision is made on this matter, it will be reviewed. The IDF is working and will continue to work to investigate any unusual occurrence in a practical manner and in accordance with the law.”

In 2022, Netzah Yehuda’s battalion commander was reprimanded and two officers were fired over the death of an elderly Palestinian-American held by the unit’s soldiers in the West Bank, an incident that raised concerns in Washington.

There have been several other incidents in recent years, some captured on video, in which Netzah Yehuda soldiers have been charged or accused of abusing Palestinian prisoners.