newsIsrael at War

Tzav 9, sanctioned by the US, denies attacking aid convoys 

A spokesperson for the activist group told JNS that another organization had claimed responsibility for torching the trucks. 

Aid trucks on the way to the Gaza Strip. Credit: Tzav 9.
Aid trucks on the way to the Gaza Strip. Credit: Tzav 9.

A spokesperson for Tzav 9, which has been sanctioned by the United States for allegedly attacking humanitarian aid convoys on their way to Gaza, has denied any involvement and told JNS that a different group claimed responsibility for the attacks. 

“We have been relating to the blockade peacefully, using our right to free speech to protest against the hijacking of humanitarian aid by Hamas. We deplore the torching of the trucks and the violence,” Rachel Touitou told JNS on Sunday.

“We don’t understand these sanctions and we will fight them. We are not criminals; we are civilians in a sovereign country. Our right to protest in a democratic country should be sacred,” she added.

The Tzav 9 movement spearheaded the initiative to block humanitarian aid from entering Gaza throughout the war.

The U.S. State Department sanctioned Tzav 9 (“Order 9”; Tzav 8 refers to the IDF emergency call-up order) on Friday, describing it as “a violent, extremist Israeli group that has been blocking, harassing and damaging convoys carrying lifesaving humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”

In a press statement announcing sanctions, the U.S. State Department referred specifically to a May 13 incident during which “Tzav 9 members looted and then set fire to two trucks near Hebron in the West Bank carrying humanitarian aid destined for men, women, and children in Gaza.”

Touitou said that the day of the incident, another group took responsibility.

“It was not Tzav 9, but the Biden administration did not bother to check. If they had, they would have realized that everything we do is non-violent,” she said. 

Regarding the May 13 incident at the Tarqumiyah checkpoint near Hebron, JNS found that calls to stop the aid trucks were spread through WhatsApp groups with hundreds of members, most notably through a community run by the “Lo Nishkach [We Will Not Forget] Headquarters,” which claims to unite several right-wing activist groups in Judea and Samaria.

The Victory Youth (“Noar Hanitzachon“) group, which is part of the We Will Not Forget Headquarters, denied involvement in a statement to JNS.

Asked about suspects in the case, the Israel Police did not say whether the attacks could be linked to any established organization, instead referring JNS back to the U.S. administration for comment.

The U.S. State Department refused to comment on how Washington had established Tzav 9’s alleged role in the violence and referred JNS to spokesman Matthew Miller’s initial June 14 announcement.

The State Department sanctioned Tzav 9 pursuant to President Joe Biden’s Feb. 1 Executive Order 14115, which states that sanctions can be applied to individuals who “threaten the peace, security, or stability” of Judea and Samaria.

The majority of Tzav 9’s protests have taken place inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders, including at the Kerem Shalom Crossing and Ashdod Port near Gaza. The group’s activists come from all over the country, with spokesperson Touitou being a resident of central Israel.

Touitou noted the group is consulting with its legal team to understand the implications of the sanctions. 

“The aid is used to serve the enemy and its tunnels. The Biden administration sanctions Israeli citizens instead of sanctioning pro-Hamas citizens on U.S. campuses,” she said. 

“We represent the majority of the Israeli population who believes we should prevent Hamas from hijacking aid. Secretary of State Antony Blinken himself said in October that if he knew Hamas was doing so, he would condemn it,” she added. 

Touitou said Tzav 9 has nevertheless paused the blockade on trucks as it no longer seems efficient. “Gaza is flooded with humanitarian aid from all directions. We are moving forward with other strategies such as meeting with ministers,” she stated. 

“As it stands, we have no control over the aid once it crosses into Gaza. If there’s no neutral and impartial organization to monitor it, then it should be the IDF that makes sure that it goes to the right people,” she continued.

“Whoever controls the humanitarian aid controls Gaza—and right now it’s Hamas,” said Touitou.

Tzav 9 activist Yael Sabrigo, the niece of Lior Rudaeff, who was murdered on Oct. 7 and whose body is being held in Gaza, told the Ynet news outlet on Monday that she was shocked by the sanctions.

“We do not engage in violence. We respect the police and the drivers—we did not have anything to do with setting the trucks on fire,” she said.

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