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US Says Israeli Army Units Violated Human Rights

The US state department has found five units of the Israeli military responsible for gross violations of human rights in individual

All of the incidents took place outside of Gaza before the current war.

Israel took corrective action in four of the units, giving “additional information” on the fifth, according to the department.

The units remain eligible for US military assistance.

Washington is Israel’s largest supplier, providing it with $3.8bn worth of weapons and defense systems annually.

The announcement is the first determination of its kind for any Israeli unit by the US government.

State Department spokesperson Vedant Petal said five security forces units committed gross violations of human rights. “Four of these units have effectively remediated these violations, which is what we expect partners to do,” he said, “For a remaining unit, we continue to be in consultations and engagements with the government of Israel; they have submitted additional information as it pertains to that unit.”

The department denies claims it backed down under political pressure by continuing military assistance to the unit despite being unable to say whether or not there had been any accountability in the case.

“We are engaging with them in a process, and we will make an ultimate decision when it comes to that unit when that process is complete,” said Vedant Patel.

All the incidents are believed to have occurred in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Under America’s “Leahy Law”, sponsored in 1997 by then-Senator Patrick Leahy, a finding that a foreign military unit committed gross human rights violations means that it can be cut from receiving US military assistance. The US government considers torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, and rape as such types of violations when implementing the Leahy Law. Even when there is such a finding, there is an exception to cutting military assistance: if the State Department is satisfied with the cases that have been dealt with and justice has been pursued by the government involved.

It says that Israel did do this, so-called remediation, in four of the five units accused. However, the department declined to give any details about the incidents, the remediation, the units involved, or evidence to support whether the remediation worked.

The US was reportedly on the brink of announcing it would cut military aid to the fifth unit, but says new information from Israel means it will make a decision later. The unit involved is widely believed to be the Netzah Yehuda battalion, a special, men-only unit set up in 1999 where ultra-Orthodox Jews serve.

Israel investigated the battalion over the death of 80-year-old Palestinian-American Omar Assad who died after being bound and gagged by soldiers during a West Bank village search in 2022.

At the time, the US called for a “thorough criminal investigation and full accountability.”

The IDF later said they regretted Mr. Assad’s death and that a commander would be reprimanded and two soldiers barred from senior positions for two years, however, they would not be prosecuted.

Asked about reports an IDF unit would be the first to face the government designation under the Leahy Law, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on April 19, “I made determinations. You can expect them in the days ahead.”

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to reject any sanctions on the country’s military, saying he would “fight it with all my strength”, while Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz spoke on the phone to Mr. Binken.

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