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US announces visa bans after warning Israel over West Bank violence

WASHINGTON : The US State Department will impose visa bans against individuals involved in undermining peace, security or stability in the occupied West Bank, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Tuesday announcing a new visa restriction policy.

The restrictions will target those who have committed acts of violence or taken other actions that restrict civilians’ access to essential services and basic necessities and may also apply to those individuals’ family members, Blinken said.

President Joe Biden and other senior U.S. officials have warned repeatedly that Israel must act to stop violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank, which has increased since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

“We have underscored to the Israeli government the need to do more to hold accountable extremist settlers who have committed violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank,” Blinken said.

During meetings in Israel last week, Blinken told officials Washington was “ready to take action using our own authorities,” he said.

The first bans under the new policy would be imposed on Tuesday and more designations will be made in the coming days, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters, adding it would ultimately impact dozens of people.

Any Israeli with an existing U.S. visa who was targeted would be notified that their visa was revoked, Miller said.

Since a 1967 Middle East war, Israel has occupied the West Bank, which Palestinians want as the core of an independent state. It has built Jewish settlements there that most countries deem illegal. Israel disputes this and cites historical and biblical ties to the land.

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

A senior State Department official said last week the U.S. wants Israel to prosecute individuals responsible for the West Bank violence but had yet to see such a step.

Blinken said Washington would “continue to engage with the Israeli leadership to make clear that Israel must take additional measures to protect Palestinian civilians from extremist attacks,” adding that the Palestinian Authority also must do more to curb Palestinian attacks against Israelis.

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Published: 06 Dec 2023, 12:40 AM IST

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