President Biden imposed sanctions on Israeli settlers in the West Bank on Thursday after a 17-year-old American citizen was shot and killed there last month.
A White House announcement of the executive order states that “extremist settler violence” reached record levels in the West Bank in 2023. The sanctions will ban dozens of settlers and their families from traveling to or conducting business in the U.S.
The order specifically applies to settlers who make “acts or threats of violence against civilians, intimidate civilians to cause them to leave their homes, destroy or seize property, or engage in terrorist activity in the West Bank.
The move comes after 17-year-old Abdel Jabbar, a U.S. citizen, was allegedly shot and killed by an Israeli settler while visiting the West Bank last month. Jabbar’s family says he was visiting the area in order to learn more about his Palestinian heritage.
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Jabbar was killed while driving a vehicle with his friend, 16-year-old Mohammed Salameh. At least 10 shots were fired through the rear of the vehicle, striking Jabbar and causing the vehicle to flip over.
Salameh survived and claims the shooting was unprovoked. Israeli police said the shooting targeted people “purportedly engaged in rock-throwing activities along Highway 60.” Police have not identified the shooter, but said the incident involved an off-duty police officer, a soldier and a civilian.
Jabbar’s father rejected claims that his son was throwing rocks toward the road, but added that even if he was, “So what?”
“If they were throwing rocks 150 meters to the street, what is it going to do to a tank? Or to a jeep? Or to a car full of soldiers? You’re gonna shoot the car 10 times because a guy threw a rock?” the father, Hafeth Abdel Jabbar, told NBC News.
The State Department imposed other visa restrictions on West Bank settlers in December. Biden’s administration has leaned heavily on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to crack down on the group.
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“The United States has consistently opposed actions that undermine stability in the West Bank, including attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, and Palestinian attacks against Israelis,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
We have underscored to the Israeli government the need to do more to hold accountable extremist settlers who have committed violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank. As President Biden has repeatedly said, those attacks are unacceptable,” he added.
One member of Netanyahu’s government responded to Biden’s move with derision on Thursday. Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Smotrich claimed that accusations of violence by settlers was an “antisemitic lie.
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Smotrich vowed to continue pushing settlements in the West Bank, adding “if the price is the imposition of American sanctions on me – so be it.”
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Israeli Defense Secretary Yoav Gallant announced that the country’s military would ban the reconstruction of Israeli settlements in Gaza following the war. A few Israeli politicians had called for the settlements to be rebuilt after they were originally dismantled when Israel ceded the territory in 2005.