RAMALLAH, West Bank: Israel raided the offices of several Palestinian advocacy groups it had previously designated as terrorist organisations, sealing entrance doors and leaving notices declaring them closed, the groups said on Thursday.
Israel has claimed some of these groups had ties to the militant Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a secular, left-wing movement with a political party as well as an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis. The groups deny Israel’s claim.
Shawan Jabarin, director of Al Haq, one of the targeted groups, confirmed that forces raided the office. He said his staffers are still examining whether any document had been confiscated.
Israeli troops “came, blew up the door, got inside, and messed with the files,’’ he told The Associated Press.
In July, nine EU member states said Israel hasn’t backed up it’s allegations and that they will continue working with the targeted groups.
“These accusations are not new and Israel failed to convince even its friends,’’ Jabarin said.
On Wednesday, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz’s office reiterated its claim that the groups “operate under the guise of performing humanitarian activities to further the goals of the PFLP terrorist organisation, to strengthen the organisation and to recruit operatives.’’
Most of the targeted organisations document alleged human rights violations by Israel as well as the Palestinian Authority, both of which routinely detain Palestinian activists.
The groups reportedly raided include Al Haq, a veteran, internationally respected Palestinian rights group” Addameer, which advocates for Palestinian prisoners” the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees” the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Bisan Center for Research and Development.
Jabarin said “neighbors and strangers’’ who were nearby during Thursday’s raid had opened the office in Ramallah as soon as the Israeli forces left, and that al-Haq’s staff were inside and resuming their work.
“We don’t take permission from any Israeli military or political official. We are proceeding, encouraged by our belief in the accountability and the international law,’’ he said.
Thursday’s raids come seven months after Israel outlawed Al Haq, Addameer, Bisan and others.
The Israeli military said it closed seven institutions and seized their property in Thursday’s raid. The military did not immediately claim the discrepancy in the numbers, between groups designated and groups raided.
The Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank described the closure of the organisations as a “dangerous escalation and an attempt to silence the voice of truth and justice.’’
Hussein Al Sheikh, a senior Palestinian official, said the PA will appeal to the international community to reopen the institutions.
Israel and Western countries consider the PFLP a terrorist organisation.
A Defence Ministry statement last year said some of the outlawed groups are “controlled by senior leaders’’ of the PFLP and employ its members, including some who have “participated in terror activity.’’
It said the groups serve as a “central source’’ of financing for the PFLP and had received “large sums of money from European countries and international organisations,’’ without elaborating.
Israel has long accused human rights groups and international bodies of being biased against it and of singling it out while ignoring graver violations by other countries.