US Secretary of State Antony Blinken notified Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during meetings on Thursday that the Biden administration is preparing to announce a series of visa bans against Israeli settlers involved in attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel Friday.
A US official confirmed the plan to AFP.
The announcement will likely only include the number of settlers being banned from the US, rather than their names, the Israeli official said, explaining that the US hopes that the anonymity will serve as a deterrent against those considering targeting Palestinians who won’t know whether they’ve been blacklisted or not.
The visa ban could be imposed as early as next week, according to the Israeli official.
In the nearly two months since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, in which thousands of Hamas terrorists slaughtered 1,200 people in southern Israel, most of them civilians, extremist Jewish attacks on Palestinians have increased in the West Bank, with civilians repeatedly assaulted and harassed.
The idea for the visa ban was first announced earlier this month in an op-ed US President Joe Biden penned in the Washington Post.
During a press conference Thursday, Blinken said, “We’re looking to the Israeli government to take some additional steps to really put a stop to this. And at the same time, we’re considering our own steps.”
On Thursday France’s foreign ministry spokesperson said the European Union should also consider sanctioning violent Israeli settlers.
The statements came as a video surfaced Friday showing roughly half a dozen settlers driving up to a storefront in the northern West Bank Palestinian village of As-Sawiya and proceeding to smash the glass windows with stones and clubs before driving away.
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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 argues is being perpetrated by a “nucleus” of several hundred extremists at most. Several arrests have indeed been made in recent weeks.
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.