Photo Credit: Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90
Netzah Yehuda Battalion recruits and their families at a swearing-in ceremony at the Kotel, May 17, 2023.

This past year, the Netzah Yehuda battalion operated in three different sectors: in the north, Gaza, and Judea and Samaria––where most of its activities have been carried out over the years. About a month ago, following the IDF’s satisfaction with the fighters and as the battalion was moved up to the front in the Gaza Envelope, the commander of the ground forces decided to turn the battalion into a maneuvering combat unit for the first time.

In the last twelve months, the battalion eliminated more than 30 terrorists in about 450 operations beyond the enemy lines in the three sectors, destroyed 69 terrorist structures, including Hamas sites from which terrorists launched rockets at Israeli citizens, arrested more than a hundred wanted terrorists, and located 3 underground sites in the Gaza Strip.


Netzah Yehuda is Battalion 97 of the infantry’s Kfir Brigade. It was initially established as the Haredi Nahal, part of the Nahal Brigade, hence the acronym Netzah – No’ar Tzv’ai Haredi (Haredi Military Youth). The first Nahal Haredi venture was a Haredi military settlement on the Gaza border in 1961. Its purpose was the same as its current reincarnation – to provide Haredi soldier an environment where they could serve in the army without compromising on their tradition. They fought and lost fighters in the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and skirmishes in between. The experiment was shut down in the 1970s, according to the unit’s veterans for purely political reasons. No one said it out loud, but the IDF of the 1970s had no patience for Haredi soldiers.

In 1999, the Haredi Nahal battalion was launched again, against all odds, and against serious rabbinic objections. Its initial targets were Haredi youths who were ejected from the yeshiva system. To them were added national religious youths who gravitated to the battalion’s kosher and traditional environment. By 2013, the now-renamed Netzah Yehuda battalion became the largest infantry battalion, with more than 800 new recruits. The battalion received numerous awards for its military performance.

On March 1, 2022, the battalion completed five consecutive years of operational deployment and was considered by the Army as the most experienced battalion in ongoing security in Judea and Samaria.

Netzah Yehuda Battalion soldiers praying during a military operation, June 20, 2005. / Abir Sultan/Flash90


On three occasions, in 2018, 2019, and 2022, Netzah Yehuda soldiers were documented roughing up PA Arabs. Unfortunately, the last incident involved the death of a US citizen, 78-year-old Arab-American Omar Assad (US Demands ‘Full Accountability’ for Dual US-PA Citizen Found Dead After IDF Questioning). Following this incident, the IDF moved the battalion from Judea and Samaria to the Golan Heights. The IDF said the decision “was made out of a desire to diversify their operational deployment in multiple areas, in addition to accumulating more operational experience,” and was unrelated to the death of Assad, but even the spokesman who made the statement didn’t believe it.

The American embassy in Jerusalem was ordered by the State Dept. to issue a report bout the Assad incident. Embassy employees interviewed PA Arabs and anti-Israel NGOs, most notably Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), whose officials, according to NGO Monitor, have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and have voiced support for Hamas (NGO Monitor Warns: Anti-Israel Group Behind Planned US Sanctions Against IDF’s Netzah Yehuda Unit).

Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the issue on Friday, saying the administration takes seriously the 1997 Leahy Law, prohibiting the Department of State and Department of Defense from providing military assistance to foreign security force units that violate human rights with impunity. It is named after its principal sponsor, one of Israel’s greatest enemies on Capitol Hill, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt). The Leahy Law has so far been used mainly to limit American military aid to dictatorships, but over the past year, there have been increasing voices in the Democratic Party calling for Israel to be included in the list.

On Saturday, Axios reported, citing three US sources, that Blinken is expected to announce sanctions against the Netzah Yehuda battalion for human rights violations in Judea and Samaria.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has spoken to Secretary Blinken and US Ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, about the sanctions, and, according to a Monday morning press release, “instructed the defense establishment to cooperate on all levels with US counterparts, in order to reflect the importance of supporting IDF operations, which are carried out in accordance with international law.”

Gallant stated: Gallant: “The commanders and troops of the Netzah Yehuda battalion operate on the frontline – since the outbreak of the war, they have been working to push Hezbollah forces from the northern border, to thwart terrorism in Judea and Samaria, and most recently, they are operating to dismantle Hamas brigades in Gaza. They are risking their lives and fighting terrorism. The battalion’s activities are carried out in accordance with the values of the IDF and in accordance with international law. Any event that deviates from the aforementioned standards is addressed accordingly.

“Any attempt to criticize an entire unit casts a heavy shadow on the actions of the IDF, which operates to protect the citizens of Israel. Damage to one battalion affects the entire defense establishment – this is not the right path for partners and friends.

“Our friends and our enemies are closely watching the ties between Israel and the United States, now more than ever. I call on the US Administration to withdraw its intention to impose sanctions on the Netzah Yehuda battalion.”

Haaretz on Saturday reported, citing administration sources who are involved in the sanctions, that other Israeli military and police units are also being examined for human rights violations and may also be sanctioned.


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