US Sanctions Israel’s West Bank Settlers as Gaza Tensions Grow

(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration sanctioned two Israeli settlements in the West Bank on Thursday and called on the country to do more to end violence against Palestinians there, as tensions continue between the two governments over the war in the Gaza Strip.

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The State Department imposed penalties on two illegal outposts that have been used as bases to launch attacks against Palestinians, as well as three Israelis for “perpetuating violence and causing turmoil in the West Bank.

The move is the second time the administration has imposed sanctions on Israeli settlers in the West Bank, after President Joe Biden granted the department additional authorities in February.

“It is critical that Israel take additional action to stop settler violence and hold accountable those responsible for it — not just for the sake of the victims of this violence, but for Israel’s own security and standing in the world,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told a briefing.

US officials have repeatedly called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to rein in extremist settlers in the West Bank since the Hamas incursion into Israel on Oct. 7 killed around 1,200 Israelis and led to the capture of about 250 more, sparking the current Israel-Hamas war. Netanyahu’s coalition government has significant support among settlers who want to annex the West Bank.

Read More: Schumer Calls for Israel Elections in Break With Netanyahu

The Biden administration has feared that long-simmering tensions in the West Bank, which is ruled by the Palestinian Authority, could see an outbreak of violence even as Israel’s military continues its operations against Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union.

Earlier Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for Israel to hold new elections, a sharp break from the highest-ranking Jewish US elected official.

“I believe a new election is the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision-making process about the future of Israel, at a time when so many Israelis have lost their confidence in the vision and direction of their government,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

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