Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement condemning sanctions on the Israel Military or so-called IDF after the report surfaced that the Biden administration is set to blacklist a unit for alleged human rights violations in Gaza.

Iran Press/ West Asia: Top U.S. officials, including President Joe Biden, have been increasingly critical of Israel's military offensive in the besieged enclave of Gaza and West Bank, where the mounting civilian death toll has sparked protests around the world.

When asked at a news conference in Italy on Friday about reports that the State Department has recommended the blacklisting of certain Israeli units from receiving U.S military aid over possible human rights abuses in the West Bank, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not outright confirm the reports but said results are expected "very soon."

Adding to the friction between the U.S. and longtime ally Israel, an Axios report published on Saturday stated that within days Blinken is expected to announce sanctions against the "Netzah Yehuda" battalion for alleged human rights abuses.

Shortly after the Axios article was published, Netanyahu appeared to respond and denounced any sanctions imposed on the Israeli military.

In the nearly seven months of conflict, the Palestinian death toll has topped 34,000, with more than 76,000 wounded, according to the Associated Press (AP) citing the Gaza Health Ministry. 

The high number of Palestinian deaths has provoked accusations of Israeli war crimes and even genocide, on the premise that civilians are being intentionally targeted.

The "Netzah Yehuda" battalion, the unit targeted by the looming sanctions, first came under scrutiny by U.S. officials in 2022 when a 78-year-old Palestinian-American man died following an arrest by its soldiers, Newsweek reported.

According to an article by "Times of Israel", a far-right Israeli activist and close ally to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir was targeted in the third round of sanctions imposed by the Biden administration, aimed at clamping down on settler violence in the West Bank.

The United States Treasury Department’s designation of Benzi Gopstein was coordinated with the European Union, which designated Gopstein’s Lehava anti-miscegenation group as a part of its sanctions announced on the same day.

Sanctioning Gopstein was part of a calculated decision by the Biden administration to gradually target those in the political orbit of some of the Israeli government’s most extreme members while holding off for now on designating ministers such as Ben Gvir or Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich themselves, a US official told The Times of Israel.

The US State Department in its announcement said Lehava is “an organization whose members have engaged in destabilizing violence affecting the West Bank.”

Under Gopstein’s leadership, Lehava and its members have been involved in acts or threats of violence against Palestinians, often targeting sensitive or volatile areas.

The Treasury Department also designated two entities — the Mount Hebron Fund and Shlom Asiraich — for their roles in establishing fundraising campaigns on behalf of Yinon Levi and David Chai Chasdai, two recently US-designated extremists who engaged in violent activities targeting Palestinians and Israeli peace activists in the West Bank. The fundraising campaigns generated the equivalent of $170,000 for Levi and Chasdai, the Treasury Department said.

For its part, the EU placed Gopstein’s Lehava group along with what it branded as “Hilltop Youth” on its asset freeze and visa ban blacklist over their involvement in attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank.

Two of the most prominent hilltop youths in recent years have been Meir Ettinger and Elisha Yered, both of whom were individually sanctioned by the EU along with settlers Neria Ben Pazi and Yinon Levi.

“The listed individuals and entities are responsible for serious human rights abuses against Palestinians,” said the EU statement.

It said abuses included “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and “the violation of right to property and to private and family life of Palestinians in the West Bank.”


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