Crisis in the Middle East: The United States imposes sanctions on the Israeli group for blocking humanitarian convoys in Gaza

Crisis in the Middle East: The United States imposes sanctions on the Israeli group for blocking humanitarian convoys in Gaza

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The State Department announced Friday that it will impose sanctions on a right-wing Israeli group that tried to prevent aid from reaching people in the Gaza Strip by blocking trucks traveling from Jordan to the coastal enclave.

The department’s statement said the sanctioned organization, Tzav 9, was “a violent Israeli extremist group that blocked, harassed and damaged convoys carrying life-saving humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”

Members of the group have tried for months to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza, the department said. They blocked roads on which aid trucks travel between Jordan and Gaza, including the West Bank, and in some cases broke into trucks, damaging them and dumping aid packages on the road, the agency said.

Some Israeli activists have been trying for months to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza.Credit…Amir Cohen/Reuters

The department also said Tzav 9 members looted and then set fire to two Gaza-bound aid trucks near the West Bank city of Hebron on May 13.

“We will not tolerate acts of sabotage and violence against this essential humanitarian assistance,” the State Department said. “We will continue to use all tools at our disposal to promote accountability for those who attempt or engage in such heinous acts, and we expect and urge the Israeli authorities to do the same.”

In a statement following the sanctions announcement, Tzav 9 denounced the US move and defended itself, saying it had “conducted a democratic and peaceful protest that exclusively involved road blockades and demonstrations, without any damage to people or property , against the direct transfer of aid into the hands of Hamas”.

The State Department designation means the group and its members are prohibited from engaging in commercial and financial transactions with U.S. entities. All property and assets they have in the United States will be frozen. It is unclear what practical impact this will have on the group, but many Israelis have close ties to the United States and some have dual citizenship.

US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken stressed the importance of ensuring that trucks carrying aid reach Gaza, even as the State Department continues to approve arms orders from Israel, in line with President Biden’s policy to support Israel in its war on Gaza. He visited a warehouse in Jordan where trucks were loaded with such aid, and also the Kerem Shalom checkpoint on the border with Israel, where many aid trucks are inspected and enter Gaza.

The U.S. military has built a floating dock on Gaza’s coast from which aid shipments can be sent into the territory, but that effort has been hampered by problems.

The Tzav 9 organization was founded during the war between Hamas and Israel – the name refers to an Israeli military mobilization order – by activists who aimed to stop humanitarian aid convoys heading to Gaza, which they said would empower Hamas.

Sefi Ben Haim, an activist with Tzav 9, has been working for months to prevent humanitarian convoys from entering Gaza from Israel at the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Ben Haim, a resident of Netivot, a town near the Gaza border, said many Palestinians in Gaza were responsible for the Hamas-led assault on Israel on October 7, citing scenes of civilians crossing the border, following Hamas militants .

For months, activists have tried to disrupt humanitarian convoys by blocking roads, but the conflict escalated in May when Israelis attacked trucks on several occasions, breaking windows and throwing goods onto the road. According to Israeli and Palestinian military witnesses, several Palestinians and soldiers were injured in the ensuing clashes.

Such attacks were typically staged on the WhatsApp messaging platform, with Israeli settlers reporting when a convoy of trucks was spotted approaching a specific intersection and calling on anyone nearby to come closer.

Tzav 9 activists have sought to distance themselves from the most violent attacks and ended their protests last month.

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