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December 11, 2023 Israel-Hamas war

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December 11, 2023 Israel-Hamas war

7:32 p.m. ET, December 11, 2023

EU working on new sanctions against “extremist settlers in the West Bank,” foreign policy chief says

The European Union’s foreign policy chief says the EU will work on introducing sanctions against Jewish settlers who commit acts of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Josep Borrell’s comments come amid growing concern that Israel is not doing enough to prevent hardcore settlers from launching attacks on Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank.

“We will work on imposing sanctions against extremist settlers in the West Bank,” Borrell told reporters in Brussels, saying he is alarmed by recent violence in the occupied territory.

United Nations data has shown a sharp increase in attacks by settlers against Palestinians since October 7 — though European and US diplomats working in the region have been expressing concern for years about such violence and the sense that it frequently goes unpunished by Israel.

Borrell’s remarks also follow the announcement of a new visa policy by the United States targeting the same violent individuals.

Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new visa restriction policy targeting “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 unduly restrict civilians’ access to essential services and basic necessities.”

The State Department will be able to apply the policy to both Israelis and Palestinians who are responsible for attacks in the West Bank, Blinken said.

According to the Reuters news agency, Borrell did not give details of possible EU sanctions, but the news agency said officials believed it would also involve travel bans to the EU.�

Another challenge for Borrell will be to convince all EU members to support any new sanctions policy. Several states, among them Hungary and Austria, are among Israel’s strongest international supporters.

What Israel is saying:Israel itself is reluctant to accept any criticism of its policy toward West Bank settlers, especially at a time when it is still dealing with the aftermath of the October 7 attack by Hamas.

War cabinet member Benny Gantz, seen previously as particularly mindful of the need to get a grip on the sense of lawlessness in some Jewish communities in the West Bank, has recently been seeking to convince international colleagues not to use the term “settler violence” because, he argues, it unfairly characterizes all those Israelis living in the territory.

Borrell also said Monday he would look to introduce a new sanctions package against Hamas, the Reuters news agency reported.  The EU already considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

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