US Says It’s Reviewing New Information About Israeli Unit Accused Of Abuses Before The War In Gaza

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The U.S. has determined that an Israeli military unit committed gross humanrights abuses against Palestinians in the West Bank before the war in Gaza began, but it will hold off on any decision about aid to the battalion while it reviews new information provided by Israel, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson.

WASHINGTON: The U.S. has determined that an Israeli military unit committed gross human-rights abuses against Palestinians in the West Bank before the war in Gaza began, but it will hold off on any decision about aid to the battalion while it reviews new information provided by Israel, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson.

The undated letter, obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, defers a decision on whether to impose a first-ever block on U.S. aid to an Israeli military unit over its treatment of Palestinians. Israeli leaders, anticipating the U.S. decision this week, have angrily protested any such aid restrictions.

Blinken stressed that overall U.S. military support for Israel’s defense against Hamas and other threats would not be affected by the State Department’s eventual decision on the one unit. Johnson was instrumental this week in muscling through White House-backed legislation providing $26 billion in additional funds for Israel’s defense and for relief of the growing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

The U.S. declaration concerns a single Israeli unit and its actions against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank before Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza began in October. While the unit is not identified in Blinken’s letter, it is believed to be the Netzah Yehuda, which has historically been based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The unit and some of its members have been linked to abuses of civilians in the Palestinian territory, including the death of a 78-year-old Palestinian American man after his detention by the battalion’s forces in 2022.

The Israeli army announced in 2022 that the unit was being redeployed to the Golan Heights near the Syrian and Lebanese borders. More recently, its soldiers were moved to Gaza to fight in the war against Hamas.

Blinken said the Israeli government has so far not adequately addressed the abuses by the military unit. But “the Israeli government has presented new information regarding the status of the unit and we will engage on identifying a path to effective remediation for this unit,” he wrote.

A 1997 act known as the Leahy law obligates the U.S. to cut off military aid to a foreign army unit that it deems has committed grave violations of international law or human rights. But the law allows a waiver if the military has held the offenders responsible and acted to reform the unit.

The Leahy law has never been invoked against close ally Israel.

After State Department reviews, Blinken wrote Johnson, he had determined that two Israeli Defense Force units and several civilian authority units were involved in significant rights abuses. But he also found that one of those two Israeli military units and all the civilian units had taken proper and effective remediation measures.

The reviews come as protests and counterprotests over American military aid for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza are roiling U.S. college campuses as well as election-year politics at home and relations abroad.

Although the amount of money at stake is relatively small, singling out the unit would be embarrassing for Israel, whose leaders often refer to the military as “the world’s most moral army.”

The U.S. and Israeli militaries have close ties, routinely training together and sharing intelligence. It also would amount to another stinging U.S. rebuke of Israel’s policies in the West Bank. The Biden administration has grown increasingly vocal in its criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and recently imposed sanctions on a number of radical settlers for violence against Palestinians.

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Lee contributed from Beijing. Josef Federman contributed from Jerusalem.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor

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

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