Israel Closes Palestinian Rights Groups It Labeled Terrorist

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Israel raided the offices of several Palestinian advocacy groups it had previously designated as terrorist organizations, sealing entrance doors and leaving notices declaring them closed, the groups said 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 but said they are still examining whether any document had been confiscated.

“They came, blew up the door, got inside, and messed with the files,” he told The Associated Press.

A day earlier, Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s office restated its rationale for the government’s approach to the groups, saying “the organizations operate under the guise of performing humanitarian activities to further the goals of the PFLP terrorist organization, to strengthen the organization and to recruit operatives.”

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Rights defenders have described Israel’s moves against the groups as part of a decades-long crackdown on political activists in the occupied territories. 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.

Most of the targeted organizations 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, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and 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, though Israel has designated six organizations as terrorists.

The PA described the closure of the organizations as a “dangerous escalation and is 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 organization.

A Defense Ministry statement last year said some of the groups outlawed then 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 organizations,” 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.

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