Israeli occupation forces this morning raided seven offices of Palestinian civil society rights groups in the occupied West Bank.
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq rights group, the Union of Palestinian Women Committees (UPWC), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Palestine chapter of the Geneva-based Defence for Children International and the Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC) all saw their offices raided and in many cases the doors welded shut to deny them access to their properties.
BREAKING 🚨 The Israeli occupation forces raided UAWC’s office early this morning 18th of August, as well as the offices of the other #6organizations. They destroyed office equipment, confiscated materials and left a closing order behind. pic.twitter.com/hVaHrRIaKS
— Union of Agricultural Work Committees (@UAWC1986) August 18, 2022
Shawan Jabarin, general director of Al-Haq, reported that Israeli soldiers stormed the Palestinian rights organisation’s Ramallah office and left a military order declaring the organisation illegal.
“They came, blew up the door, got inside, and messed with the files,” he told the Associated Press.
🚨🚨Breaking: This morning, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) raided Al-Haq’s office in Ramallah, confiscated items and shut down the main entrance with an iron plate leaving behind a military order declaring the organization unlawful 1/2 pic.twitter.com/Y8yqRdU4Db
— Al-Haq الحق (@alhaq_org) August 18, 2022
Mazen Rantisi, head of the board of directors at the UHWC, which runs several hospitals and dozens of clinics across the occupied West Bank, said the closures are part of a longstanding Israeli policy.
“They raided our offices at dawn, broke the doors, took documents, computers, we are still assessing what’s gone. They wrecked the place and welded the doors shut with metal,” Rantisi told Al-Jazeera.
“We found a document plastered on the door, in Hebrew only, saying that this is a closed organisation, we are not allowed to enter, and no time period is specified.”
Six of the organisations were designated as “terrorists” by Defence Minister Benny Gantz in October. The offices of a number were forced to close and many saw their funding cut.
“The goal is to put obstacles in the way of civil society so that it doesn’t develop, it is part of destroying Palestinian society, and to make people feel defeated,” added Rantisi.
“This will definitely impact the services we offer but we will find a way to continue our work.”
The designation of the six NGOs sparked a major backlash in Europe and the United States and was condemned by a senior UN official. “[This is] an attack on human rights defenders, on freedoms of association, opinion and expression and on the right to public participation,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
She pointed out that the organisations designated as terror groups “are some of the most reputable human rights and humanitarian groups in the occupied Palestinian territory and for decades have worked closely with the UN.”
Last month nine European countries expressed their refusal to stop cooperating with the Palestinian NGOs due to the lack of evidence proving the claim.
In a joint statement, the spokespersons of the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden said: “Accusations of terrorism or links to terrorist groups must always be treated with the utmost seriousness. The designations needed therefore to be assessed carefully and extensively.”
“In the absence of such evidence, we will continue our cooperation and strong support for civil society,” they added.