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‘War Crime’: US Lawmakers demand White House to stop Israel’s forced displacement of Palestinians in Masafer Yatta

Washington – Fifteen progressive Democrats on Tuesday urged U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to send the “strongest diplomatic message possible” to pressure ‘Israel’ into preventing the forced displacement of more than 1,000 Palestinians from the Masafer Yatta villages in the West Bank.

The letter, spearheaded by Congresswoman Cori Bush, is the second one in the span of a week urging the Biden administration to take immediate steps to halt the destruction of Palestinian homes in Masafer Yatta.

A number of progressive Democrats joined Bush in the letter, including Andre Carson; Pramila Jayapal; Betty McCollum; Marie Newman; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Ilhan Omar; Mark Pocan; Ayanna Pressley; and Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib.

“Forced displacement and transfer by Israel of Palestinians in Masafer Yatta would be a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and would amount to a war crime,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

“If Israel proceeds with its plans to forcibly displace the indigenous Palestinian residents,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Israel should immediately, pursuant to the oversight and accountability required by the Leahy Law and the Arms Export and Controls Act, send observers to document the mass transfer, including details of the military units involved in these operations and the use of any U.S. weapons.”

The Leahy Law is a piece of legislation that prohibits US assistance to foreign militaries suspected of committing “gross violations of human rights”. The law enables the administration to force oversight of and also restrict Israel’s expulsion of Palestinians, according to the lawmakers.

In addition to the US lawmakers, the letter was supported by dozens of civil society groups including Jewish Voice for Peace Action; Americans for Justice in Palestine Action; IfNotNow; and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

“Hollow words of concern from the Biden administration are not enough,” said Beth Miller, political director of JVP Action. “Palestinians in Masafer Yatta are under daily threat from the Israeli military, living the terrifying reality that their homes could be destroyed at a moment’s notice, with funding from the US government.”

Last Thursday, 83 lawmakers – 20 members of the Senate and 63 House members – sent a similar letter condemning Israel’s plan of forced displacement of Palestinians ahead of the visit by US President Joe Biden to ‘Israel’ next month.

Masafer Yatta is a rural area in the south of the occupied West Bank, home to over 1000 Palestinians including 500 children. Earlier last month, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the ancient Palestinian villages of Masafer Yatta be ethnically cleansed of their Palestinian inhabitants, in one of the largest forced expulsions of Palestinians since the Naksa of 1967.

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