The United States has urged Israel to take action against violent settler groups in the occupied West Bank. The US Department of State has announced that it will impose visa restrictions on Israeli settlers who are involved in undermining peace, security, or stability in the region.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement on Tuesday, following a statement from the State Department that Israel has not done enough to address settler attacks that have forced many Palestinians off their land.
The new visa restriction policy targets individuals believed to have been involved in undermining peace, security, or stability in the West Bank, including through committing acts of violence or taking other actions that restrict civilians’ access to essential services and basic necessities.
President Joe Biden and other senior US officials have repeatedly warned Israel to take action to stop violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank. This violence has increased since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
The State Department did not announce individual visa bans, but it was stated that the bans would be implemented starting Tuesday and would cover “dozens” of settlers and their families, with more to come. The exact number and identities of those targeted were not disclosed for confidentiality reasons.
Israeli settler violence has long targeted Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and the attacks have surged over the last year, as Israel’s far-right government, which includes ultranationalist settlers, signals support.
Settler attacks have escalated further amid the continuing war in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinian armed group Hamas. After the attack on October 7, Israel launched a devastating assault on Gaza, resulting in the deaths of more than 16,200 people and the displacement of over 1.5 million others, according to Palestinian officials.
Since the October 7 attack, Israeli settlers have killed at least nine Palestinians in the West Bank, three times as many as in all of 2022, and attacks on Palestinian villages and farmers have become commonplace.
While Palestinian attacks on Israeli settlers and soldiers in the West Bank typically meet harsh reprisals by Israeli forces, accountability for attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians is exceedingly rare.
Palestinians have described settler violence as one part of a larger Israeli effort to force them from their land. In 2018, Israel passed a controversial bill known as the nation-state law that, among other things, called Jewish settlement efforts a “national value” that the state would “encourage and promote.”
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