Despite the approval of billions of dollars in new aid for the military by the US House of Representatives, the Israeli government is outraged by its most important protective power, the USA. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fears the US could impose sanctions on a controversial Israeli army battalion, as he wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “At a time when our soldiers are fighting the monsters of terror, the intention to impose sanctions on an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) unit is the height of absurdity and a moral low point.” Just an hour earlier, he had also written on X with a view to the US aid package: “Thank you, friends, thank you America!”

On Saturday evening, the US House of Representatives approved a $26 billion aid package for Israel. On the one hand, it is intended, for example, to finance Israel’s missile defense and the US’s ongoing military operations in the region. On the other hand, around $9 billion of this is intended for humanitarian support, including for the people in the Gaza Strip and other regions. The USA is Israel’s most important protecting power and supports the country with billions of dollars every year, a significant portion of which goes towards missile defense and other military technology. The necessary approval from the Senate is still pending, but is considered certain.

The US news portal Axios reported, citing three people familiar with the matter, that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to announce sanctions against a battalion of the Israeli Defense Forces over human rights violations in the West Bank in the next few days. It would be the first time that the US has imposed sanctions on an Israeli military unit.

Netanyahu reacted indignantly and wrote on Platform X: “No sanctions should be imposed against the Israeli army!” His government will use all means to counter these measures. In recent weeks he has advocated against the imposition of sanctions against Israeli citizens, including in his discussions with senior American government officials.

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, said imposing sanctions against the unit would set a dangerous precedent and send the wrong message “to our common enemies” in a time of war, according to the Times of Israel. Measures would be taken to ensure that this decision does not go through. The infantry unit is “an integral part of the army” and is bound by military and international law. Israel has “strong and independent” courts capable of dealing with alleged violations.

The sanctions would bar the battalion’s members from receiving military support or training from the United States, Axios reported, citing its sources. A US official said Blinken’s decision on the unit was based on incidents that occurred in the West Bank before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. The battalion has been linked to right-wing extremism and violence against Palestinians, according to the Times of Israel. Israel withdrew the unit from the West Bank in December 2022 and has since deployed it mainly in the north of the country.

The relationship between Israel and the USA is already tense. In view of the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip and the high number of civilian casualties in the conflict, the USA has also criticized Israel’s military actions. Biden and his government had long held back from making public objections, but in recent weeks they have increasingly toughened their tone towards the Israeli leadership.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army said it was continuing its fight against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The military said dozens of air strikes were carried out on terrorist targets there. Israeli forces also carried out a major operation in the West Bank until Saturday evening. According to the army, they killed at least ten gunmen. Nine Israeli security forces were also injured in fighting in the Nur Schams refugee camp in Tulkarem.

The Ministry of Health in the West Bank reported 14 dead and several injured in the operation, including a 16-year-old teenager. According to reports from Palestinian media that were initially not officially confirmed, the local commander of the Palestinian terrorist organization Islamic Jihad, Mohammed Jaber, was among those killed. Clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians have increased since the Gaza war began.

The same applies to violent acts by settlers against Palestinian residents of the West Bank. According to Palestinian sources, an ambulance driver was killed near Nablus on Saturday evening in confrontations between settlers and Palestinians. The 50-year-old Palestinian was shot, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said. He drove injured people out of a village that had previously been invaded by settlers. It was initially unclear who killed the ambulance driver.

After Israel’s alleged counterattack against military targets in Iran, Tehran continues to downplay the attack. Iran will not respond to this, Iranian media quoted Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdollahian as saying. “The small drones that were shot down were more like toys,” said the Iranian chief diplomat. There was no damage or casualties caused by the small drones shot down near Isfahan. Iran would respond “vehemently and consistently” to a comprehensive Israeli attack, said Amirabdollahian.

According to media reports, Israel carried out a retaliatory action on Friday in response to a major Iranian attack last weekend. Iran’s massive missile and drone attack on Israel was preceded by a rocket attack on the Iranian embassy in the Syrian capital Damascus, which killed two generals and other staff. This attack was attributed to Israel.

In several cities in Israel, thousands again protested for an agreement to release the hostages still held in the Gaza Strip and against the Israeli government. Relatives of the abductees accuse her of having no serious interest in reaching an agreement with the Islamist Hamas.