Israeli forces raid the offices of six Palestinian human rights groups | Palestinian territories

Israeli forces raid the offices of six Palestinian human rights groups in the occupied West Bank which they previously accused of being terrorist organizations, a move decried as an ‘appalling attack’ on civil society Palestinian.

Property belonging to key defense groups was confiscated and entrance gates sealed by soldiers in the early hours of Thursday.

At the offices of Al-Haq, an internationally respected human rights organization based in Ramallah, the front door was welded shut and a statement in Hebrew was left saying it would remain closed for “security reasons.” “. The minister of an Anglican church on the ground floor of the building, which leases the space to Al-Haq, said the church was also raided and its glass doors smashed.

In October, Israel banned Al-Haq; Addameer, which defends Palestinian prisoners; the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees; the Bisan Center for Research and Development; and Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P).

Israel argued that the groups had ties to the militant Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a left-wing secular movement with political and armed wings. Israel and Western countries consider the PFLP a terrorist organization.

A man looks out the window of Al-Haq’s office after it was raided in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Photograph: Nasser Nasser/AP

However, Israel has provided little evidence to support the charges. All six organizations deny the allegations and three have challenged the designation in Israeli courts.

Washington said it was “concerned” by Israel’s closure of Palestinian NGOs. US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday: “We haven’t changed our position or our approach to these organizations… We haven’t seen anything change in recent months. [our position].”

Last month, a group of EU member states that fund some of the activities of Palestinian organizations rejected Israeli claims, saying that “a free and strong civil society is essential to promote democratic values ​​and the two-way solution”. states”.

The European Commission reinstated suspended funding for Al-Haq in June. The EU should also continue to work with the other groups concerned.

Later on Thursday, Al-Haq staff removed the sheet metal covering its office door and vowed to return to work despite computers and other equipment being seized.

“We were established here not by Israel, not by their decision and we will continue our work,” Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin told a press conference.

The Israeli army said it closed seven institutions and seized their property in Thursday’s raid. The seventh appears to have been the Union of Health Work Committees, which Israel banned from working in the West Bank in 2020.

On Wednesday, the office of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz reiterated its claim that the groups “operate under the guise of humanitarian activities to advance PFLP goals, strengthen the organization and recruit operatives.”

Aida Touma-Suleiman, Israeli member of the Knesset, tweeted: “[Gantz] declared six Palestinian human rights organizations as terrorist groups, the international community did not buy the lie, so today he sent the occupying forces to shut them down.

Israel has long accused human rights groups and international bodies working in the Palestinian territories of bias.

Many of the six organizations targeted document allegations of human rights abuses by Israel as well as the Palestinian Authority – both of which regularly detain Palestinian activists. The PA must grant the Israeli army permission to operate in areas of the West Bank under its control, such as Ramallah.

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