US Secretary of State to announce sanctions against IDF unit: Axios report News
IDF Spokesperson's Unit, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
US Secretary of State to announce sanctions against IDF unit: Axios report

Axios reported Saturday that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to announce sanctions against the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) battalion “Netzah Yehuda” for human rights violations in the West Bank, according to three informed sources. The battalion is a special IDF unit mainly comprised of ultra-Orthodox soldiers.

According to the report, the sanctions will ban the Netzah Yehuda military unit and its members from receiving US military assistance and training. The report states that these sanctions are a response to incidents that took place in the West Bank before the October 7 Hamas attack. The Washington Post reported that Blinken had made “determinations” related to several accusations that Israel violated US law. These sanctions would be the first time the US sanctioned an IDF unit.

The potential sanctions are based on the US “Leahy Law.” This law refers to two statutory provisions prohibiting the US from using funds for assistance to units of foreign security forces where credible information implicates that unit in the commission of gross human rights violations. The 1997 law gets its name from former Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who authored the statutory provisions.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the potential sanctions on X (formerly Twitter) and implored the US not to impose them. Netanyahu also criticized the idea of sanctions being imposed on a military unit trying to fight terrorists. Netanyahu also noted that he and the Israeli government will act to ensure that the US does not impose the sanctions. Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir wrote a letter to Netanyahu, demanding a political-security cabinet meeting in response to the potential US sanctions.

Local Israeli media reported that the IDF is unaware of US plans to impose sanctions on the Netzah Yehuda battalion. In response to the news, the IDF stated that its troops are “now participating in the war in the Gaza Strip, with courage and professionalism, while maintaining the values ​​and spirit of the IDF and the principles of international law.”

These potential sanctions are in response to acts that took place before the current Israel-Hamas conflict that started after the October 7 Hamas attacks. Gaza has been decimated in the nearly six months of war following October 7. Israeli strikes have hit locations including medical facilities and refugee camps, and human rights groups have accused Israel of war crimes. This has had devastating impacts on civilians. Nearly 2 million people, 85 percent of the territory’s population, have been displaced by the violence, and more than 32,000 people have been killed—mostly civilians. Survivors face a collapsed medical system and imminent famine.