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U.S. sanctions Israeli group for damaging humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians

Gazans describe deadly Israeli raid
Gazans describe being caught up in Israel's brazen hostage rescue raid 02:21

Washington — The State Department sanctioned an Israeli extremist group that it said has been mounting attacks aimed at thwarting the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, it announced Friday.

The U.S. accused members of the group, called Tsav 9, of blocking, harassing and damaging convoys carrying assistance to Palestinians in Gaza for several months. The group has blocked roads along a route from Jordan to Gaza, damaged aid trucks and thrown food supplies onto the ground, according to the State Department.

Tsav 9 members were also accused of looting and setting fire to two trucks carrying aid near the West Bank city of Hebron last month.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan condemned those attacks, calling them a "total outrage." He said then that the Biden administration was examining ways to respond and had raised concerns with the Israeli government.

"It's something we make no bones about," Sullivan told reporters last month. "We find it completely and utterly unacceptable."

Humanitarian aid supplies dumped by Jewish settlers near a military checkpoint in Hebron, West Bank, on May 13, 2024.
Humanitarian aid supplies dumped by Jewish settlers near a military checkpoint in Hebron, West Bank, on May 13, 2024.  Ibrahim Hamad/Anadolu via Getty Images

In announcing the sanctions, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller underscored the importance of getting humanitarian assistance into Gaza to prevent the crisis there from worsening and to mitigate the risk of famine.

He said the Israeli government has a responsibility to ensure that humanitarian convoys heading to Gaza can move throughout Israel and the West Bank safety and securely.

"We will not tolerate acts of sabotage and violence targeting this essential humanitarian assistance," Miller said. "We will continue to use all tools at our disposal to promote accountability for those who attempt or undertake such heinous acts, and we expect and urge that Israeli authorities do the same."

The Times of Israel newspaper described Tsav 9 as a "right wing organization" that opposes the provision of aid to Gaza while Hamas continues to hold hostages taken during the attacks in Israel on Oct. 7. The group has posted images and videos of their blockades to social media and vowed to stop assistance from getting into war-torn Gaza until all hostages are released. 

Humanitarian groups have warned the assistance getting to Palestinians in Gaza is insufficient and blamed the Israeli government for making it difficult for legitimate goods to reach the Hamas-controlled territory. 

The head of the World Health Organization said this week that a "significant proportion of Gaza's population is now facing catastrophic hunger and famine-line conditions." Two United Nations agencies warned in a report this month that more than 1 million people in Gaza — nearly half its population — are expected to face death and starvation by mid-July.

"In the absence of a cessation of hostilities and increased access, the impact on mortality and the lives of the Palestinians now, and in future generations, will increase markedly with every day, even if famine is avoided in the near term," the report from the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated.

Margaret Brennan and Camilla Schick contributed reporting.

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