Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Netzah Yehuda Battalion patrol near the Israeli-Gaza border, October 20, 2023.

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.

Assad, 80, returned to live in his home in Jaljilia about 11 years before the incident, after spending most of his life in the US. On the night of January 12, 2022, Assad returned from visiting friends at 3 AM, when the weather was extremely cold. According to the findings of the investigation, at 3:20 AM soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda Battalion took him to the yard of an abandoned house, handcuffed him, covered his mouth with a flannel cloth (used to clean guns), covered his eyes, and threw him on the floor.


At 4:00 AM, they released his hands from the handcuffs and left the place. At 04:09 AM, another PA Arab detainee called an ambulance. At 04:20 AM, Assad’s death was established. Although the three doctors who tried to save him determined that the heart attack was a result of the violence inflicted on him, the findings of the military investigation ruled out a connection between the actions and the heart attack.

According to the IDF spokesman, the investigation revealed that “there was no use of violence beyond overcoming Assad’s resistance.”

Following the incident, the IDF found that there was no reason to resort to criminal proceedings, and instead took disciplinary and command measures. The company and squad commanders were removed and were barred from holding command positions for two years.

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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