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US says extremist West Bank settlers will be barred from America

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

In a rare punitive move against Israel, the US State Department said it will impose travel bans on extremist Jewish settlers implicated in a rash of recent attacks on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the step after warning Israel last week that President Joe Biden’s administration would be taking action over the attacks.

Mr Blinken did not announce individual visa bans, but officials said those would be coming this week and could affect dozens of settlers and their families.

“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,” Mr Blinken said in a statement.

“As President Biden has repeatedly said, those attacks are unacceptable.”

“Today, the State Department is implementing a new visa restriction policy targeting individuals believed to have been involved in undermining peace, security or stability in the West Bank, including through committing acts of violence or taking other actions that unduly restrict civilians’ access to essential services and basic necessities,” Mr Blinken said.

He said the US would continue to seek accountability for settler violence against Palestinians as well as Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and Israel, particularly as tensions are extremely high due to the conflict in Gaza.

“Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have the responsibility to uphold stability in the West Bank,” Mr Blinken said.

“Instability in the West Bank both harms the Israeli and Palestinian people and threatens Israel’s national security interests.”

Tuesday’s move comes just a month after Israel was granted entry into the US Visa Waiver Programme, which allows its citizens visa-free entry into the US.

Those targeted will not be eligible for the programme, and those who hold current US visas will have them revoked.