France says EU should consider sanctioning violent Israeli settlers

Remarks from foreign ministry spokesperson come less than two weeks after Biden threatened to impose US visa bans against those targeting Palestinian civilians in West Bank

Israeli soldiers restrain Jewish settlers after they stormed the Palestinian West Bank village of Dayr Sharaf following a terror attack in which an Israeli driver was shot dead, November 2, 2023. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
Israeli soldiers restrain Jewish settlers after they stormed the Palestinian West Bank village of Dayr Sharaf following a terror attack in which an Israeli driver was shot dead, November 2, 2023. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

France’s foreign ministry spokesperson said Thursday that the European Union should consider sanctioning violent Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians in the West Bank.

“We believe that the international community has a role to play to end these acts of violence which are extremely destabilizing for the region, but also harm the prospects for a two-state solution,” Anne-Claire Legendre said during a briefing.

The French spokesperson did not elaborate on the type of sanctions she had in mind, but the comments came less than two weeks after US President Joe Biden threatened to issue US visa bans against violent settlers.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also raised the need for Israel to take “immediate steps to hold settler extremists accountable for violence against Palestinians in the West Bank” during his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday in Jerusalem, according to a US readout.

An Israeli official told The Times of Israel earlier this month that the government has stepped up its activities to combat the phenomenon, which it says is being perpetrated by a “nucleus” of several hundred extremists at most. Several arrests have indeed been made in recent weeks.

A French diplomatic source told Reuters Thursday that Paris would prefer if the sanctions against settlers are issued by the entire EU, as opposed to individual members, but another European diplomat said not all of the bloc’s members back the idea — which would require unanimous approval — and that a formal debate hasn’t even begun.

Sanctions targeting Hamas are in more advanced stages though, including steps to target the terror group’s finances and combat its propaganda on social media, Legendre said, adding that other sanctions will target Hamas commanders with asset freezes and travel bans. Diplomats told Reuters that the aim is for the sanctions to be implemented in the next two weeks.

In the nearly two months since the October 7 onslaught by Hamas against Israel, in which thousands of terrorists slaughtered 1,200 people in southern Israel, most of them civilians, Palestinians have seen a severe backlash in the West Bank against civilians, who have allegedly been repeatedly attacked and harassed by extremists.

An Israeli settler attacks and shoots an unarmed Palestinian man at point-blank range during an incident in the Palestinian village of A-Tuwani village in the South Hebron Hills, October 13, 2023. (Screenshot courtesy of B’Tselem, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

According to activist groups such as B’Tselem and Peace Now, which oppose Israeli rule in the West Bank, as well as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), this wave of attacks has led to the displacement of over 1,000 Palestinians from 15 communities beyond the Green Line.

Since October 7, Israeli troops have arrested some 2,000 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 1,100 affiliated with Hamas. According to the Palestinian Authority health ministry, some 200 West Bank Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, and in a few cases settlers.

Based on military estimates, the vast majority of the 200 Palestinians killed since October 7 were shot dead during clashes amid arrest raids. Around 60 percent of them, according to data seen by The Times of Israel, were armed with either a firearm or an explosive device.

The IDF is aware of at least three cases of uninvolved Palestinians being killed by troops in recent weeks, and a handful of cases of settlers killing Palestinians, which are still under investigation.

The Yesh Din organization says there have been more than 185 settler attacks against Palestinians in over 84 towns and villages around the territory since October 7.

Jeremy Sharon and Gianluca Pacchiani contributed to this report.

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