US finds five Israeli units responsible for rights abuses in the West Bank

All units still eligible for US military aid, Washington says after it identifies abuses committed before Gaza war.

Israeli soldiers and Palestinian protesters clash near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip
Israeli soldiers and Palestinian protesters clash near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip in September 2023 [Amir Cohen/Reuters]

The United States has found five units of Israel’s security forces responsible for gross violations of human rights.

The Department of State announced the findings on Monday, noting that it is the first time Washington has reached such a conclusion about Israeli forces. However, it added that none of the units has been barred from receiving US military aid.

Human rights groups have reported abuses by Israeli units, including extrajudicial killings, torture and other physical abuse, most of them committed against Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The incidents in question did not take place in Gaza and occurred before the war between Israel and Hamas broke out in October, State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said.

However, he added that “remediation” at four of the units has now put Israel in compliance with US law prohibiting military assistance to security units that commit abuses and have not been brought to justice.

“Four of these units have effectively remediated these violations, which is what we expect partners to do,” Patel said.

He declined to go into detail on the breaches US officials identified, which units were involved or what remediation steps were taken.

In the case of the fifth unit, Washington has not yet determined whether there has been sufficient remediation and is still in talks with Israel, he added.

The fifth unit is believed to be the Netzah Yehuda Battalion.

Set up in 1999 to accommodate the religious beliefs of ultra-Orthodox Jews and other religious nationalist army recruits, the battalion was deployed to the West Bank until it was moved in late 2022 after the death of 78-year-old Palestinian American Omar Assad in its custody provoked US criticism.

All the units remain eligible for US assistance, Patel said.

Scrutiny building

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested this month that Washington did not plan to disqualify Israeli units from receiving US aid using the Leahy Laws, authored by US Senator Patrick Leahy in the late 1990s, despite pressure from activists and media.

The US government’s support for Israel, which includes billions of dollars in military aid, has become an intense focus of election-year politics.

Israel’s conduct in the war in Gaza, which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians and displaced most of the population, is facing increasingly intense scrutiny.

Reports now suggest that the International Criminal Court may be mulling the issue of arrest warrants against Israeli officials.

Source: Reuters