EU mulls sanctions on violent Israeli settlers in occupied West Bank

EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell says the bloc is ‘alarmed’ by the deadly violence in the occupied territory by ‘extremist settlers’.

Palestinians are seen through flames during clashes with Israeli soldiers during the funeral of Palestinian Labib Dumaidi, 19, who was killed in an Israeli settlers' attack
Palestinians are seen through flames during clashes with Israeli soldiers during the funeral of Labib Dumaidi, 19, who was killed in an Israeli settler attack, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank [File: Raneen Sawafta/Reuters]

The European Union’s top diplomat says he will propose sanctions on Jewish settlers who are violent against Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday said the bloc was “alarmed by the violence in the West Bank by extremist settlers” and condemned the Israeli government’s decision to approve 1,700 more housing units in Jerusalem, in what Brussels considers a violation of international law.

“The time has come to move from words to actions … and to start adopting the measures we can take with regard to the acts of violence against the Palestinian population in the West Bank,” Borrell told reporters after meeting EU foreign ministers in Brussels on their next steps regarding the Israeli war on Gaza.

Since October 7, settler attacks have more than doubled against Palestinians, according to the United Nations. Combined with raids by Israeli forces, at least 275 people have been killed in the occupied territory since, including at least 63 children, with a further 3,365 injured.

While Borrell said ministers were not entirely enthused about the proposed measure, he will work with the EU officials to draw up a list of prominent settlers who have engaged in attacks.

The foreign policy chief has yet to submit a formal proposal, but he said he will suggest the settlers be sanctioned for human rights abuses.

Borrell did not give details about the sanctions but EU officials have said they will include bans on travel to the EU, a challenging proposal some diplomats say, as countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary are staunch allies of Israel.

However, last week, Israel’s biggest ally, the United States, imposed a visa ban on settlers involved in violent attacks in the occupied West Bank.

France last month said it was also considering such measures, while Belgium said it will ban settlers from the country.

Israeli settler violence has surged in the last year after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government, which itself includes ultranationalist settlers, signalled support.

Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, considered illegal by much of the world, are built on territory Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israel war.

The number of settlements in the occupied territory have increased drastically in the last decade, with Palestinians describing settler violence as part of a larger Israeli effort to force them from their land.

Borrell also said he would propose a separate sanctions programme against Hamas, which saw no opposition by any EU minister. The EU already considers Hamas a terrorist organisation.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies