US Sanctions Israeli Activists Accused of Attacking Humanitarian Aid Deliveries to Gaza

US Sanctions Israeli Activists Accused of Attacking Humanitarian Aid Deliveries to Gaza
A view of trucks carrying aid to Gaza that were stopped after they were damaged by Israeli settlers near a checkpoint near Hebron in the West Bank on May 14,2024. (Mussa Qawasma/Reuters)

President Joe Biden’s administration announced sanctions on Friday against an Israeli activist group blocking shipments of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.

“The Department of State is today designating Tzav 9, a violent extremist Israeli group that has been blocking, harassing, and damaging convoys carrying lifesaving humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza,” the U.S. State Department announced in a Friday press statement.

The State Department said Tzav 9’s supporters have, for months, impeded humanitarian aid deliveries, at times blocking roadways, attacking delivery trucks, and throwing out the aid supplies they have been carrying. The State Department noted one particular incident on May 13 in which Tzav 9 supporters allegedly looted and set fire to two trucks near Hebron, en route to the Gaza Strip with humanitarian aid.

The State Department said the U.S. government will sanction Tzav 9 under authorities laid out in a February executive order targeting groups and individuals deemed to pose a threat to peace, security, and stability of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, and the broader Middle East region. The executive order authorizes the federal government to freeze U.S. assets belonging to sanctioned groups and individuals and blocks people in the United States from contributing funds and resources to these designated groups and individuals. The executive order also closes legal pathways for members of these sanctioned groups to enter the United States.

In addition to announcing the sanctions designation, the State Department said it also expects the government of Israel to take action to prevent groups from disrupting the flow of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.

We will not tolerate acts of sabotage and violence targeting this essential humanitarian assistance,” the State Department 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.”

Tzav 9, Gaza Aid, and Hamas

Numerous Israeli activists have taken steps to hinder humanitarian aid deliveries going into the Gaza Strip, as Israeli forces continue their military campaign there to eliminate Hamas—a U.S. and Israeli-designated terrorist group—and free captives taken by Hamas during a coordinated attack across southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Tzav 9, which roughly translates in English to “Order 9,” is one of the main activist organizations involved in these efforts to disrupt the humanitarian deliveries to the Gaza Strip. A translation of the group’s X social media profile biography states, “No aid gets through—until the last of the kidnapped returns!”

The Israeli activist group has claimed that these aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip are not actually going to civilians in the embattled territory, but are instead being taken by Hamas, bolstering the designated terrorist group in its insurgent fighting against the Israeli military.

While claims abound that Hamas has diverted humanitarian deliveries for its own benefit, it’s difficult to independently assess how prevalent this pattern of behavior may be, amid the ongoing fighting in the Gaza Strip.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan condemned the alleged May 13 attack on an aid convoy in Hebron as “utterly unacceptable” within hours of the incident and indicated the Biden administration was looking at options to address the disruptions.

While the Biden administration has generally continued to back the Israeli government in its military campaign in the Gaza Strip, the administration has increasingly pressed for cease-fire efforts and urged the Israeli government to also enable a greater flow of humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip.

Yair Lapid, the designated opposition leader within Israel’s legislature, the Knesset, also condemned Tzav 9’s efforts in a May 15 statement, arguing the group’s behavior undermines the Israeli security and actually serves the interests of Hamas.

Other US Sanctions Targeting Israelis

The Biden administration has sanctioned several Israelis in recent months. These sanctions actions have primarily focused on violent incidents involving Israeli settlers in the West Bank, an area of contested political status with shared oversight by the Israeli government and the Palestinian authority.

Shortly after the president announced his executive order in February, authorizing new sanctions actions against Israelis, the the State Department named the first four Israeli nationals to be sanctioned under this new executive order: David Chai Chasdai (also spelled Hasdai), Einan Tanjil, Shalom Zicherman, and Yinon Levi. The State Department linked these four individuals to violent clashes throughout the West Bank in recent years, including incidents in which Palestinians and Palestinian-friendly Israeli activists were threatened, injured, and killed.

In April, the U.S. Treasury Department announced additional sanctions targeting the Mount Hebron Fund and Shlom Asiraich; a pair of fundraising organizations the department said were linked to Mr. Levi and Mr. Chasdai.