Sunday, May 26, 2024

Israeli PM fumes as US hits army’s Netzah Yehuda battalion with sanctions over alleged abuses. Who is this Army?

HomeWARIsraeli PM fumes as US hits army's Netzah Yehuda battalion with sanctions...

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an explosive move straining already-tense relations, the United States is brazenly slapping harsh sanctions on an elite Israeli military unit over grisly allegations of human rights atrocities committed against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank territories.

The sanctions tsunami, which will directly target the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, represents a seismic first in the U.S. disciplining the armed forces of Israel, its closest Middle East ally. The Biden administration is defiantly moving forward despite vehement outrage from the Israeli government.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is poised to detonate the punitive sanctions any day now against the ultra-Orthodox battalion within the mighty Kfir Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The bombshell announcement will come after investigations found credible evidence of the unit violating the Leahy Law, which bans U.S. military assistance to foreign security forces implicated in gross human rights abuses.

“You can expect to see them in the days ahead,” Blinken darkly warned about the sanctions during a recent trip to Italy, without providing further details on the unprecedented disciplinary measures to be taken against America’s elite military partner.

The move reflects erupting outrage within the White House over a flurry of horror reports depicting the Netzah Yehuda battalion’s unrestrained militant tactics and alleged war crimes against Palestinian populations in the occupied West Bank conflict zones.

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Among the egregious human rights violations propelling the U.S. crackdown was the extrajudicial killing of 80-year-old Palestinian-American Omar Assad in January 2022. Assad was brutally slain during an Israeli raid on Ramallah, with his enraged family accusing IDF forces of savagely beating the elderly man before he ultimately succumbed to a fatal heart attack.

Prominent humanitarian groups have also compiled damning dossiers on a pattern of human rights atrocities by Netzah Yehuda’s fanatical soldiers. This includes physical assaults on unarmed civilians, wanton property destruction, and even blocking emergency medical care from reaching injured Palestinian protesters during the unit’s iron-fisted military operations.

The imminent U.S. rebuke in the form of harsh sanctions has detonated a political shockwave, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charging the move represents an unforgivable betrayal of the IDF’s frontline forces putting their lives on the line against Palestinian “monsters of terror.”

“Sanctions must not be imposed on the Israel Defense Forces!” Netanyahu has repeatedly raged on social media. “At a time when our soldiers are fighting the monsters of terror, the intention to impose a sanction on a unit is the height of absurdity and unconscionable.”

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The ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda battalion was established in 1999 to allow devout religious Israeli men to serve in the military while adhering to strict Orthodox customs. However, the unit swiftly cultivated a notorious reputation for attracting extremist West Bank settlers with hardline ideological views.

For years, the battalion’s undisciplined soldiers have persistently been accused of exhibiting zero regard for human rights and resorting to indiscriminate use of excessive force – concerns echoed by Israeli rights groups as well as international observers.

In 2022, the IDF removed the Netzah Yehuda from West Bank deployments and re-stationed it along the Syrian border in the Golan Heights, amid failed attempts to quell spiraling violence against Palestinian populations. Yet U.S. officials say the abuses triggering sanctions occurred before the re-deployment.

Precisely what sanctions will be imposed remains unclear, but they are widely expected to sever the battalion’s access to U.S. military aid, training, intelligence, equipment and weapons under Leahy Law provisions.

Significantly, the U.S. probe also examined other IDF units but determined sanctions were not warranted after remedial actions were taken to address violations, according to reports.

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The punitive strike against this elite Israeli force underscores the White House’s escalating willingness to confront human rights issues poisoning prospects for peace in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian quagmire. The growing rift risks destabilizing America’s bedrock military alliance with Israel.

While staunchly supporting Israel’s security, U.S. officials have voiced escalating alarm over the crush of evidence showing Israeli forces repeatedly using excessive, indiscriminate force that endangers innocent Palestinian civilians across the occupied territories.

Israel has long defended its military’s use of force as a tragic necessity for confronting constant militant threats. But human rights monitors accuse battle-hardened Israeli troops of brazenly trampling every red line with no accountability.

The U.S. sanctions upheaval lands amid already incendiary tensions flaring between Israel’s right-wing government and Palestinians over the stalled peace process and Netanyahu’s push to radically expand settlements in the West Bank.

With violence again surging and no diplomatic offramps, the American punch to Israel’s elite military ranks could drastically inflame the intractable conflict few expected would still burn into the 21st century.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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