US determines 5 Israeli security units committed human rights violations before outbreak of Gaza war

The US State Department has determined that five Israeli security units committed gross violations of human rights prior to the outbreak of the war with Hamas in Gaza, but is still deciding whether to restrict military assistance to one of the units under US law.

The other four “have effectively remediated these violations,” deputy State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said Monday.

The US is still deciding whether to restrict assistance to the remaining unit – reported to be the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda battalion.

“We continue to be in consultations and engagements with the Government of Israel. They have submitted additional information as it pertains to that unit, and we’re continuing to have those conversations,” Patel said.

“All of these were incidents much before October 7, and none took place in Gaza,” Patel noted.

According to a source familiar, the Israelis told the US in recent weeks about previously undisclosed actions they’ve taken and the US is reviewing those actions to see whether they are sufficient enough to hold off restricting aid.

Under the Leahy Law, the US cannot provide assistance to foreign security units that are credibly implicated in human rights abuses, but there is an exception “permitting resumption of assistance to a unit if the Secretary of State determines and reports to Congress that the government of the country is taking effective steps to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.”

In recent weeks, Secretary of State Antony Blinken repeatedly alluded to having made a determination under the law. He described the Leahy Law determination process as “a good example of a process that is very deliberate.”

“It seeks to get the facts, to get all the information – that has to be done carefully. And that’s exactly how we proceeded as we proceed with any country that is the recipient of military assistance from the United States,” he said last week.

Patel pushed back on the idea that Israel was “being offered unique treatment” by being granted more time to present information to hold off potential punishment.

“There is nothing that I have outlined here that is inconsistent with the Leahy process,” he said.

Patel would not provide details about when the “additional information” was presented to the US. Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressed immense anger and concern following reports of potential impending action several weeks ago.

“This continues to be an ongoing process. And if at any point remediation efforts or things like that are found to be inconsistent with the standards that we find, there of course will be a restriction on applicable US assistance,” Patel said.

Patel also declined to detail the units or speak about specifics of the remediation process. He said he did not know whether the fifth unit had taken any remediation steps.

“The standard of remediation is that these respective countries take effective steps to hold the accountable party to justice. And that is different on a country-by-country basis,” he said at a press briefing.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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