France sanctions 28 Israeli settlers over West Bank violence

France’s decision comes on the back of similar sanctions by the US and the UK.

A Palestinian man inspects a car damaged
A Palestinian man inspects a car damaged in a reported attack by Israeli settlers in the village of Asira al-Qibliya, south of Nablus, in the occupied West Bank on February 13, 2024 [Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP]

France has announced sanctions against 28 Israeli settlers whom it accused of committing human rights abuses against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank.

The 28 individuals would be banned from entering France, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday.

“These measures come as violence perpetrated by settlers against the Palestinian population has increased in recent months. France reaffirms its firm condemnation of this unacceptable violence,” the ministry said in a statement.

On Monday, the French, Polish and German foreign ministers issued a joint statement, saying violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank was unacceptable and “shall be sanctioned”.

France said it would also seek sanctions at the European level.

A woman reacts as mourners attend the funeral of four Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli settlers,
A woman reacts as mourners attend the funeral of four Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli settlers, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, October 12, 2023 [File: Ammar Awad/Reuters]

“Colonisation is illegal under international law and must stop,” the ministry said.

“Its continuation is incompatible with the creation of a viable Palestinian state, which is the only solution so that Israelis and Palestinians can live, side by side, in peace and security.”

France’s decision comes on the back of similar sanctions by the United States and the United Kingdom, which have expressed concerns about settler violence and the rise of attacks on Palestinians.

On Monday, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron announced the sanctions on four Israeli nationals accused of attacking Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

“Extremist Israeli settlers are threatening Palestinians, often at gunpoint, and forcing them off land that is rightfully theirs,” Cameron said.

“This behaviour is illegal and unacceptable. Israel must also take stronger action and put a stop to settler violence. Too often, we see commitments made and undertakings given, but not followed through.”

The United Nations has recorded more than 516 settler attacks against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since October 7, when Israel launched an assault on Gaza after the Palestinian group Hamas carried out attacks on southern Israel.

At least 1,139 people were killed in the Hamas attack, according to an Al Jazeera tally based on official Israeli figures.

At least 28,473 people have been killed in Israel’s intense bombardments and ground offensive in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Raids by Israeli soldiers and settlers on West Bank towns and villages have increased since the outbreak of the war on Gaza, killing hundreds of Palestinians.

Settler attacks often take place with Israeli security forces standing by or joining in.

According to the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, Israeli officials have routinely failed to hold Israeli settlers accountable for their actions.

In the last 18 years, police failed to investigate at least 81 percent of cases opened.

Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, said the fact that the Israeli army usually protect “armed settlers as well”, is giving settlers a sense of impunity to “wreak havoc and attack Palestinians wherever they are”.

Palestinians often say there is “no point, no use in even going and complaining to the police”, Ibrahim said.

“They would tell us the judge and criminal are of the same entity, the same system,” she said.

At least 700,000 Israelis live in fortified, Jewish-only settlements across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are considered illegal under international law.

Settler attacks include shootings, stabbings, rock-throwing, severe beatings, as well as arson and serious damage to homes, vehicles and agricultural lands.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies