US to impose visa bans soon on Israeli extremist settlers for West Bank violence

US to impose visa bans soon on Israeli extremist settlers for West Bank violence

DUBAI (Reuters): The Biden administration has informed Israel that Washington will impose visa bans in the next few weeks on Israeli extremist settlers engaged in violence against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank, a senior State Department official said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet have let them know that the United States will take its own action against an undisclosed number of individuals.

The West Bank, among the territories where Palestinians seek statehood, has experienced a surge of violence in recent months amid expanding Jewish settlements and a nearly decade-old impasse in US-sponsored peacemaking.

The violence, at a more-than-15-year high this year, surged further after Israel hurtled into a new war in the separate enclave of Gaza in response to Palestinian militant group Hamas unleashing the deadliest day in Israel’s history on Oct. 7.

The United States has repeatedly expressed its concern over the rising violence in the West Bank, saying it must stop. US President Joe Biden, in a Nov. 18 Washington Post opinion piece threatened to take action against the perpetrators.

“I have been emphatic with Israel’s leaders that extremist violence against Palestinians in the West Bank must stop and that those committing the violence must be held accountable. The United States is prepared to take our own steps, including issuing visa bans against extremists attacking civilians in the West Bank,” Biden wrote.

The State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said Washington wants Israel to prosecute the perpetrators but has yet to see such a step.

The visa bans could come in the next few weeks, the official said.

Daily settler attacks have more than doubled, U.N. figures show, since Hamas, which controls the coastal enclave of Gaza to Israel’s southwest, killed 1,200 Israelis and took about 240 hostage. Israel has since bombed and invaded Gaza, killing more than 15,000 people.