US Sanctions Three Israeli West Bank Settlers And Their Outposts For Violence Against Palestinians

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on three extremist Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank who are accused of harassing and attacking Palestinians to pressure them to leave their land.

Two farms that the settlers run were also targeted in the move that is likely to increase already heightened tensions between the U.S. and Israel over the Gaza war.

The announcement from the State Department and Treasury comes at a time of increasing friction between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose far-right government has reacted angrily to previous sanctions imposed against West Bank settlers.

U.S. officials — from Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken — have repeatedly raised concerns about a surge in settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank since Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip began. Israel has said it is taking action against such attacks and argued that the sanctions are unnecessary.

Currently, nine people and their properties have been sanctioned under a new executive order targeting West Bank settlers according to Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control database.

The immediate impact of Thursday’s sanctions was not clear as it is uncertain if any of the settlers or their farms have assets in U.S. jurisdictions. However, an earlier tranche of sanctions against settlers spooked Israeli banks that do business with them. The U.S. sanctions block the men and their outposts from using the U.S. financial system and bar American citizens from dealing with them.

Rights groups said that among dozens of violent settlers in the volatile territory, the three named in the sanctions list Thursday were among the most dangerous.

“All three are hardcore leaders of settler violence,” said Dror Etkes, a veteran anti-occupation researcher.

Included in the Thursday sanctions are settler Zvi Bar Yosef and his outpost, known as the Zvis Farm. Currently sanctioned in the U.K., Bar Yosef is accused of acting violently against Palestinians in the West Bank. Bar Yosef founded his now-sanctioned outpost northwest of the Palestinian city of Ramallah and in 2018, Etkes said.

Etkes noted that Bar Yosef was responsible for the “most brutal assaults I’ve ever heard about in terms of settler attacks.”

In August, Israeli media reported that Bar Yosef kicked a Palestinian man in his mouth, knocking out four of his teeth while Israeli soldiers looked on.

Also sanctioned Thursday is Moshe Sharvit, a settler also already sanctioned in the U.K., who founded a settlement in the north Jordan Valley. Sharvit allegedly attacked Palestinians and Israeli human rights activists in the vicinity of his outpost, known as Moshes Farm, which is also now sanctioned by the U.S.

British officials in February stated that Sharvit and another settler threatened Palestinian families at gunpoint and destroyed property as part of a “ targeted and calculated effort to displace Palestinian communities.”

Additionally, sanctions were imposed on Neriya Ben Pazi, who U.S. officials say attacked and expelled Palestinian shepherds from hundreds of acres of land as recently as August 2023.

Ben Paz, who grew up in an Israeli settlement in Gaza, founded the outpost Rimonim in 2019, which Etkes said is responsible for the displacement of thousands of Palestinian Bedouins from the area between Ramallah and Jericho.

His outpost is not included on the sanctions list.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday that “these individuals have engaged in repeated violence against Palestinians and in some cases, Israelis too.”

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement that “there is no justification for extremist violence against civilians or forcing families from their homes, whatever their national origin, ethnicity, race, or religion.”

In February, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that targets Israeli settlers in the West Bank who have been accused of attacking Palestinians and Israeli peace activists in the occupied territory.

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Frankel reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press White House reporter Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – Associated Press)

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