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U.S. imposes visa bans on Israeli ‘extremist settlers’ in West Bank

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Internashonal

U.S. imposes visa bans on Israeli ‘extremist settlers’ in West Bank


The United States will impose visa restrictions on people believed to have engaged in violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Tuesday, following repeated calls for Israel to do more to prevent extremist attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinians.

The move comes amid a surge of attacks in the West Bank, where rights groups say settler violence against Palestinians has reached record levels since the Oct. 7 assault on Israel by Hamas.

In a statement, Blinken said the policy was designed to target “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.”

Immediate family members of such individuals may also be subject to the restrictions, the statement said. Washington continues to seek accountability for all acts of violence against civilians in the West Bank, Blinken added, and has also told the Palestinian Authority that it “must do more to curb Palestinian attacks against Israelis.”

Addressing the new U.S. policy at a Wednesday news conference, Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy condemned violence in the West Bank but described the majority of Israelis there as “law-abiding citizens.”

“Israel denounces any violence and has zero tolerance for citizens who may be thinking of taking the law into their own hands or engaging in acts of vigilantism or hooliganism,” Levy said.

As settler violence surges, West Bank Palestinians fear new displacement

The visa restrictions starting Tuesday will affect dozens of people, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a briefing. Israeli citizens designated under the policy with valid U.S. visas will be notified that their visas have been revoked, and the applications of those applying for new visas will be rejected, he added. However, the restrictions will not affect Israeli settlers who are U.S. citizens.

Miller said the policy was introduced because the United States had not seen sufficient action by the Israeli government to “hold accountable extremist settlers who commit acts of violence.”

The Biden administration has in recent weeks warned Israel to curtail rising violence in the West Bank. Palestinians there have been killed and displaced and had their property damaged. Meanwhile, settlements have begun receiving weapons from the Israeli government as part of an initiative spearheaded by its far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, to arm “hundreds” of communities.

Itamar Ben Gvir: How an extremist settler became a powerful Israeli minister

In late October, President Biden condemned attacks on Palestinians by settlers in the West Bank, likening the violence to “pouring gasoline on fire.”

“They have to be held accountable,” he said. “And it has to stop now.”

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recorded 318 settler attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank since Oct. 7, the agency said in a statement Tuesday — a higher weekly average than was recorded throughout 2023 before the war.

Most of those attacks resulted in damage to Palestinian property, OCHA said, adding that one-third of the incidents included firearms and threats of shootings.



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