German police raided charities alleged to provide support to the Palestinian Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip. Around 90 properties in ten states were searched in raids carried out across Germany today, targeting charities suspected of providing "financial and propaganda" for the Islamist group.
The interior ministry said that the main targets of the raids were WorldWide Resistance-Help and Ansaar International. They are accused of collecting funds for Hamas, which the EU has proscribed as a terrorist organisation.
"Whoever supports Hamas under the guise of humanitarian aid disregards fundamental values of our constitution and discredits the commitment of many aid organisations," Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in a statement.
The ministry also said that the two organisations supported Hamas, which is governing the besieged enclave, through propaganda campaigns.
Nearly two million Palestinians, the vast majority of who are refugees, are packed into the narrow coastal area which the UN has said is becoming uninhabitable. Hamas, which has an armed and a political wing, took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after it defeated the PLO-affiliated Fatah party in Palestinian elections. Despite their election victory, Israel imposed a crippling siege, in what has been described as an attempt to punish the Palestinian people for voting for the Islamist party.
In the 12 years in which the enclave has been besieged, Israel launched three devastating military assaults, killing thousands and destroying the Strip's infrastructure. A 2015 UN report warned that Gaza would be uninhabitable by 2020.
The raids in Germany come as the Gaza Strip suffers from a mounting humanitarian crisis marked by electricity shortages and the deterioration of critical health, water and sanitation services.
The organisations raided by German police say on their websites that they collect donations for people in Gaza, Somalia, Syria and other countries. Dusseldorf-based Ansaar International describes itself as an aid organisation carrying out projects across the world and claims to have 600 members in Germany and around 2,000 around the globe.
A profile of the organisation in a German paper shows that it provides health services, water and sanitation, orphanages and education to the needy in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Americas. In Gaza, the organisation says it provides emergency food aid, water, electricity and schooling.