UK sanctions four Israeli settlers accused of violence

  • By James Landale, Diplomatic Correspondent & Andre Rhoden-Paul
  • BBC News

Image source, EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Image caption,

Soldiers inspect cars burned by Israeli settlers in the West Bank village of Al-Mughayyir on 26 May 2023

The UK has imposed sanctions against four “extremist” Israeli settlers it has accused of attacking Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

The Foreign Office announced financial and travel restrictions against the four who it says have committed human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Lord Cameron also called on Israel to take action to end the violence.

West Bank violence has surged since the start of the Gaza war, triggered by Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October.

At least 384 Palestinians – members of armed groups, attackers and civilians – have been killed in conflict-related incidents in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, or in Israel, according to the UN.

During the same period, 10 Israelis, including four security forces personnel, have been killed.

The Foreign Office says some residents in settlements and unauthorised outposts have used harassment, intimidation and violence to put pressure on Palestinian communities to leave their land.

Approximately 700,000 Jewish people live in 160 settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and 144 outposts, according to settlements watchdog Peace Now.

The settlements were built by previous Israeli governments after Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, while the smaller outposts have been built without official authorisation.

The vast majority of the international community considers the settlements and outposts illegal under international law, though Israel and the US dispute this interpretation.

Settlers are a powerful force in Israeli politics and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government depends on their support.

But western powers fear they could trigger an escalation in this conflict and these sanctions, along with ones imposed last week by the US, serve as a warning that international patience is growing thin.

Among those subject to UK travel bans and financial restrictions are settlers accused of threatening families at gunpoint and destroying property as part of a targeted campaign to displace Palestinian communities.

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said: “Extremist Israeli settlers are threatening Palestinians, often at gunpoint, and forcing them off land that is rightfully theirs. This behaviour is illegal and unacceptable.

“Israel must also take stronger action and put a stop to settler violence. Too often, we see commitments made and undertakings given, but not followed through.”

He added extremist settlers were “undermining security and stability for both Israelis and Palestinians”.

The Foreign Office has named the four settlers and described the accusations against them.

Moshe Sharvit is accused by the UK of threatening, harassing and assaulting Palestinian shepherds and their families in the Jordan Valley.

In October 2023, he is said to have forced a community of 20 families to flee after he allegedly attacked residents and said they had five hours to leave.

Yinon Levy, leader of an outpost farm, has been sanctioned after using physical violence and the destruction of property to displace Palestinian communities, the Foreign Office statement says.

Zvi Bar Yosef, also sanctioned, is behind an outpost described by local Palestinian residents as a “source of systematic intimidation and violence”, the government said.

A fourth Israeli sanctioned, Ely Federman, has been accused of being involved in multiple incidents against Palestinian shepherds in the South Hebron Hills.

Between the 7 October attacks and 5 February, 506 Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians were recorded by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The Foreign Office has accused Israel of failing to act, leading to “an environment of near total impunity” for extremist settlers in the West Bank.

The UK says it is continuing to call for Israel to take action against those responsible for settler violence, release frozen funds to the Palestinian Authority and halt settlement expansion.

Shortly after President Joe Biden signed the executive order, Israel signalled its dissatisfaction and described the majority of West Bank settlers as “law-abiding”.

“Israel takes action against all law-breakers everywhere, and therefore there is no need for unusual measures on the issue”, a statement from Mr Netanyahu’s office said.

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