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IDF units’ human rights ‘violations’ before Oct. 7 attack: State Department

LawIDF units' human rights 'violations' before Oct. 7 attack: State Department


Five Israel Defense Force units committed “gross violations of human rights” outside of the Gaza Strip prior to the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack that killed hundreds, the State Department announced Monday.

Four of the IDF units have been “remediated” by Israel, a spokesman said, adding an unidentified fifth unit is still subject to review about whether the US should impose penalties — including cutting off military training, equipment and other aid.

“We continue to be in consultations and engagements with the Government of Israel. They have submitted additional information as it pertains to that unit,” State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters.

The incidents in question took place prior to the Israel-Hamas war and outside of the Gaza Strip. AFP via Getty Images

Under the Leahy Laws, the US is bared from assisting military units accused of violating human rights law.

On April 19, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had made “determinations” on accusations of human rights violations in the West Bank, triggering speculation that sanctions were imminent.

However, in a letter last week to House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), Blinken revealed that the department had received new information about the fifth unit, widely reported to be the Netzah Yehuda battalion — made up primary of ultra-Orthodox nationalist Jews.

Patel stressed Monday that the State Department was not prepared to publicly announce any sanctions.

“The government of Israel has submitted additional information. We are currently reviewing it,” he said. “We’re engaging with them in a process and we’ll make a decision from there when that process is complete.”

Patel was coy about the timeline of events and when a final decision on sanctions would be made.

“The standard of remediation is that these respective countries take effective steps to hold the accountable party to justice. And that is different on a country-by-country basis,” he said.

Antony Blinken visited Saudi Arabia on Monday amid simmering tension in the Middle East. AP

Patel also underscored that the incident “does not have a bearing on the broader security relationship” between the US and Israel.

Reporters grilled Patel about whether the State Department was itself in compliance with the Leahy Laws by giving Israel an opportunity to remediate the situation, forcing the spokesman to deny that the Jewish state was receiving “special treatment” from Washington.

The Netzah Yehuda battalion was accused of wrongdoing in the death of 78-year-old Palestinian American Omar Assad, who died of a heart attack in January 2022 following his arrest at an Israeli military checkpoint.

A subsequent IDF investigation concluded that Assad’s death was “a grave and unfortunate event, resulting from a moral failure and poor decision-making on the part of the soldiers” who declined to check on Assad after he lost consciousness.

Speaker Mike Johnson threatened to intervene if the Biden administration imposes sanctions on the IDF unit. AP

Johnson lashed out at the Biden administration last week over reports that it was mulling sanctions against the IDF unit.

“We heard a rumor of this before our [aid] bill was actually brought for a vote in the House, I mean, hours before,” Johnson told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt last week, referring to a $26 billion package to assist Israel and the Palestinians.

“And I’ll tell you what I did, Hugh, and I don’t, I guess I’m breaking news here,” Johnson went on. “No one knows this. But I called the White House immediately and talked with Jake Sullivan, and [Secretary of State] Tony Blinken was overseas at the moment.”

“I am very hopeful that they won’t try to proceed on that. If they do, we’ll intervene.”

The State Department is still assessing whether or not to impose penalties. AP

The State Department announcement came down after reports emerged that the International Criminal Court is considering levying war crimes charges against Israeli leaders over the conduct of the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip

“On this investigation, our position is clear,” Patel said. “We continue to believe that the ICC does not have jurisdiction over the Palestinian situation.”

The Israeli Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



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