EU, US sanction extremist Israeli settlers

AFP , Ahram Online , Friday 19 Apr 2024

The European Union and the United States on Friday imposed sanctions on extremist Israeli settlers and settler groups over violence against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

West Bank
File photo: Border Police officers stop Israeli settlers from entering the Palestinian West Bank town of Turmus Ayya. AP


The EU put two "radical" organisations Lehava and the Hilltop Youth on its asset freeze and visa blacklist for their attacks on Palestinians.

It also included Hilltop Youth leaders Meir Ettinger and Elisha Yered, along with settlers Neria Ben Pazi and Yinon Levi.

"The listed individuals and entities are responsible for serious human rights abuses against Palestinians," said an 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."

The US Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on two organizations on Friday for fundraising on behalf of two violent Israeli extremists in the West Bank.

The two groups -- Mount Hebron Fund and Shlom Asiraich – established crowdfunding campaigns to raise thousands of dollars for Yinon Levi and David Chai Chasdai respectively. Both of those men were sanctioned by the US in February under a new executive order targeting those perpetrating violence in the West Bank. 

At the same time, the State Department on Friday sanctioned Ben-Zion Gopstein, “the founder and leader of Lehava, an organization whose members have engaged in violence, including assaults on Palestinian civilians,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Israel's daily Israel Hayom reported that the Biden administration had "dramatically" softened its sanctions against these individuals after pressure from Israel's far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, which Washington denied.

Violence by settlers in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has surged over the past year, even before the eruption of the Israeli war on Gaza.

As part of a systematic policy led and supported by right-wing ministers in the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, terrorist settlers from West Bank settlements have been launching racist attacks and deadly assaults against Palestinian villages and individuals from the north to the south of the West Bank.

At least 468 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers across the West Bank since 7 October.

The United Nations human rights office called on Israeli security forces to “immediately end their active participation in and support for settler attacks on Palestinians.”

Human Rights Watch said Israeli forces either took part in or failed to stop the settler's attacks that displaced hundreds of people from several Bedouin communities.

In November, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA) said that more than 820 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have been displaced amid terrorist settlers' violence and increased movement restrictions since the start of Israel’s war on Gaza. 

Since the Gaza war broke out, settler attacks against Palestinians have more than doubled, from an average of three to eight incidents a day, the UN said, citing incidents of intimidation, theft and assault.

Even before the war, the United Nations warned of a dramatic rise in West Bank settler attacks on Palestinian people and property, with nearly 600 such incidents registered in the first seven months of 2023, and the US State Department had unequivocally condemned as terrorism the killing of a Palestinian by the colonial settlers.

Meanwhile, Bezalel Smotrich announced the seizure of 10 square kilometres (3.8 square miles) of Palestinian territory in the West Bank. The move marks the single largest land seizure by the Israeli government since the 1993 Oslo accords, according to Peace Now, a settlement watchdog group.

Israel has used land orders to gain control over 16 percent of Palestinian-controlled lands in the West Bank, until now.

Israel’s government has advanced plans for more than 3,400 new homes in settlements in the occupied West Bank.

It has accelerated the construction of settlements across the occupied East Jerusalem, with more than 20 projects totaling thousands of housing units having been approved or advanced since the start of the war in Gaza six months ago.

All Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and Jeruslaem are considered illegal under international law.

People stand amid the damage caused by fire, in the aftermath of an Israeli settler attack on the occupied West Bank village of Duma, on April 17, 2024. AFP

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