US to blacklist IDF unit Yehuda over human rights violations in Gaza

This potential move marks a significant development in the ongoing scrutiny of Israeli military units over their conduct in conflict zones, particularly concerning their treatment of Palestinians.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish, Netzah Yehuda military battalion within the Israeli army, is likely to be blacklisted by the United States for alleged human rights violations.

This potential move marks a significant development in the ongoing scrutiny of Israeli military units over their conduct in conflict zones, particularly concerning their treatment of Palestinians.

According to Axios, Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to announce the designation in the coming days.

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Allegations and investigations

The US State Department has been examining Netzah Yehuda and other Israeli security forces for more than a year after allegations of human rights violations against Palestinians.

The battalion, primarily of ultra-Orthodox nationalists, was relocated from the West Bank in December 2022 to reduce interactions with Palestinians. Despite this move, no specific soldiers have been held accountable for reported misconduct within Netzah Yehuda.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu condemned

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has strongly condemned the reported US plan to sanction Netzah Yehuda, labeling it as “the height of absurdity” amidst ongoing conflicts with Hamas in Gaza.

The potential blacklisting of this unit has sparked tensions and raised concerns about the implications for Israel’s military operations and international relations.

“Sanctions must not be imposed on the Israel Defense Forces. In recent weeks, I have been working against the imposition of sanctions on Israeli citizens, including in my conversations with senior American government officials. At a time when our soldiers are fighting the monsters of terror, the intention to impose a sanction on a unit in the IDF is the height of absurdity and a moral low. The government headed by me will act by all means against these moves, PM Netanyahu wrote.

Former Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett expressed his anger on X over the sanctions and wrote, “I urge the US administration to avoid applying sanctions on the Netzah Yehuda IDF Battalion. It’s morally wrong and practically damaging. This is a combat unit fighting against terrorists who are trying to murder Israelis. The IDF has a robust system that handles any wrongful actions that may arise. We can and will handle this as we always do,” (sic).

US decision and future implications

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has hinted at an upcoming announcement regarding the blacklisting of Netzah Yehuda, indicating that a decision will be made in the coming days.

The Biden administration’s move to consider sanctions against this ultra-Orthodox army battalion underscores a shift in US policy towards holding military units accountable for alleged rights abuses.

Who are Netzah Yehuda?

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish military battalion has been making headlines due to its involvement in human rights violations in the West Bank, particularly against Palestinians.

This battalion, which translates as ‘forever Judea’, was founded in 1999 to encourage ultra-Orthodox Haredi males to join the IDF while maintaining their religious views.

However, Netzah Yehuda has earned a bad reputation over the years for its involvement in several violent episodes against Palestinians.

History of Abuse

Netzah Yehuda has been involved in numerous violent situations, involving torture and other inappropriate behavior.

For example, in 2015, a Netzah Yehuda sniper shot a defenceless Palestinian with live ammunition during a protest in Silwad near Ramallah, and numerous troops abused Palestinian detainees using electric shocks.

In 2019, Netzah Yehuda soldiers were filmed attacking Bedouin civilians at a gas station near Rahat in the Naqab/Negev.

In January 2022, the battalion made headlines again when troops from Netzah Yehuda were involved in the death of 80-year-old Palestinian-American, Omar Asad. Asad died of cardiac arrest after being detained, handcuffed, gagged, and left in the cold by soldiers from the battalion.

The incident received considerable media attention, with the US State Department calling for a thorough criminal inquiry.

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