Israeli leaders condemn expected US sanctions, Netanyahu vows to fight it with all his might

Leaders in Israel criticized potential sanctions that are expected to be imposed by the U.S. as early as this week against an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) military battalion accused of violating human rights back in 2022.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken could announce sanctions against IDF battalion ‘Netzah Yehuda’ within days, marking the first time the U.S. will have placed sanctions on military units operated by Israel. If Blinken follows through with the sanctions, it could further strain relationships between the allies, which have already become tense as Israel continues its war in Gaza.

U.S. officials have not identified the sanctioned unit, though Israeli leaders and local media identified it as Netzah Yehuda, a battalion established nearly 25 years ago.

Israeli officials have condemned the expected sanctions, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he would oppose them.

‘If anyone thinks they can impose sanctions on a unit in the IDF, I will fight it with all my might,’ Netanyahu said.

Some of the battalion’s members have been linked to abuse of Palestinians. The group faced harsh criticism from the U.S. in 2022 after a 78-year-old Palestinian-American man, Omar Assad, was found dead after being detained at a West Bank checkpoint.

An autopsy conducted by Palestinian officials found Assad suffered a heart attack caused by ‘external violence,’ adding he had underlying health conditions.

The autopsy also noted that Assad had bruises on his head, redness on his wrists caused by being bound, and bleeding in his eyelids after being tightly blindfolded.

The country’s military also investigated and found Israeli soldiers assumed Assad was sleeping when they cut off the cables binding his hands. When the soldiers saw Assad was unresponsive, they failed to offer medical help and left the scene.

The Israeli military said at the time that one officer was reprimanded, and two others were reassigned to non-commanding roles because of the incident.

The uproar from the U.S. resulted in Israel relocating Netzah Yehuda to northern Israel in 2022, after it had been stationed in the West Bank. After the attack on Israel on Oct. 7 by Hamas-led terrorists, the battalion was relocated again to the southern border near Gaza. The battalion is now reportedly helping with the war effort in the Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli military.

‘The battalion is professionally and bravely conducting operations in accordance to the IDF Code of Ethics and with full commitment to international law,’ it said. It said that if the unit is sanctioned, ‘its consequences will be reviewed.’

Axios reported that if sanctions were imposed, the battalion and its members would no longer receive any type of training or assistance from the U.S. military, according to sources.

The U.S. is prohibited under the Leahy Law, from providing any sort of foreign aid or defense department training to countries responsible for alleged human rights violations based on credible information.

While speaking to reporters on Friday, Blinken was asked about Israel’s violations of human rights in the West Bank and recommendations made by his department to cut military aid to certain Israeli units.

Blinken started by saying the Leahy Law was important and applied across the board.

‘When we’re doing these investigations, these inquiries, it’s something that takes time, that has to be done very carefully both in collecting the facts and analyzing them – and that’s exactly what we’ve done,’ he said. ‘And I think it’s fair to say that you’ll see results very soon. I’ve made determinations; you can expect to see them in the days ahead.’

Fox News Digital reached out to the State Department for comment.

The Associated Press reported that Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s War Cabinet, issued a statement saying he spoke with Blinken on Sunday and told him the decision is a ‘mistake.’ Gantz added that sanctions would hurt the country’s legitimacy during a time of war.

The wire service also learned from two U.S. officials familiar with the sanctions that the announcement could come as early as Monday.

The officials reportedly said five units were investigated, and of the five, four acted to remedy violations they were accused of committing.

On Friday, the U.S. imposed sanctions on an ally of Israel’s national security minister and two entities that raised money for Israeli men who allegedly committed settler violence. The new sanctions came in addition to others placed on five settlers and two unauthorized outposts earlier this year. 

Friday’s sanctions will reportedly freeze U.S. assets held by those targeted, while also barring American forces from dealing with them.

Fox News Digital’s Andrea Vacchiano and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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