Israeli occupation forces raided the headquarters of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) in the occupied West Bank city of Al-Bireh this morning. A military order was issued, forcing the office to close for six months.
According to the UAWC, heavily-armed Israeli soldiers broke down the door before confiscating computers and memory drives. The union is one of the largest organisations providing assistance to Palestinian farmers. The soldiers involved in the raid apparently said that the closure was due to "security concerns".
Established in 1986, the UAWC plays a critical role in promoting Palestinian farmers and community resilience in Area C, which is home to 300,000 Palestinians, including Bedouin and herding communities who mostly live in tents, caravans and caves. Under the Oslo Accords the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is divided into three parts – Areas A, B and C. Area C covers around 60 per cent of the occupied West Bank and comes under full Israeli civil and security control.
The closure comes a month after Israeli forces raided the Palestinian Union of Health Workers Committee (UHWC) headquarters in Ramallah and shut it down for its alleged affiliation with the Popular Liberation Front for Palestine. As a result, Amnesty International has warned of "catastrophic consequences" for Palestinians in need of medical attention.
Saleh Higazi, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said that the targeting of the UHWC was part of a wider attack by Israel against Palestinian civil society organisations. "Instead of criminalising organisations providing vital health services," he added, "the Israeli authorities should be ending their institutionalised discrimination and systematic oppression of Palestinians."