The Foreign Ministry and eight other EU foreign ministries have condemned Israeli crackdowns on Palestinian NGOs in the West Bank yesterday.
In a joint statement released tonight, the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden offered support for the NGOs on the ground
“We are deeply concerned by the raids that took place on the morning of August 18 as part of a worrying reduction in space for civil society in the oPt (Occupied Palestinian Territories). These actions are unacceptable,” the statement said.
“The further reduction of civilian space in the oPt continues to be a cause for concern. We stand firmly with NGOs to uphold the right to freedom of expression and assembly in the oPt.
“A free and strong civil society is essential for the promotion of democratic values and for a two-state solution. As we stated on July 12, no material information was received from Israel that would warrant a review of our policy towards the 6 Palestinian NGOs based on Israel’s decision to designate these NGOs as “terrorist organizations”. If there is convincing evidence to the contrary, we would act accordingly.”
It comes as Israel early Thursday raided the offices of several Palestinian interest groups it had previously blacklisted as terrorist organizations, sealing entrances and declaring them closed.
Western diplomats visited one of the offices hours later to support the groups. The US State Department has expressed concern about the raids and said it is seeking more information from senior Israeli officials.
The raids marked a major escalation against civil society organizations, which Israel has banned over claims they have links to a militant group, an allegation they deny. Israel has provided little evidence to support its allegations. Nine European countries have denied Israel’s allegations against the groups, citing a lack of evidence.
Israel claims the groups are linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a secular left-wing movement with a political party and an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks on Israelis. Israel banned the groups last year.
Shawan Jabarin, director of al-Haq, one of the target groups, said he and his staff are still checking to see if any documents have been confiscated.
Israeli troops “came in, blew up the door, got in and tampered with the files,” he told The Associated Press. They then sealed the entrance to the office, he said.
Another group, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, circulated video showing soldiers in full riot gear searching their office and transporting equipment.
Right-wing advocates have described Israel’s moves against the groups as part of a decades-long crackdown on political activism in the occupied territories. Last month, nine EU member states said Israel had not confirmed its allegations and would continue to work with the groups.
The Israeli military said it closed seven facilities and confiscated their property in Thursday’s raids. The military did not immediately explain the discrepancy in numbers between designated and searched groups.
On Wednesday, the office of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz reiterated its claim that the groups “operate under the guise of conducting humanitarian activities to further the goals of the terrorist organization PFLP, strengthen the organization and recruit activists.”
Meanwhile, a 58-year-old Palestinian man was shot dead outside a bakery earlier this morning in another Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank.
His family and the Palestinian Ministry of Health said he was shot dead by Israeli forces. The military said he may have been hit by gunfire from Palestinian militants during clashes that erupted during the raid. Neither side presented evidence to support their claim.
Salah Sawafta, 58, was shot in the head while returning home from morning prayers in the West Bank city of Tubas, according to his brother Jehad.
“There were clashes with youth in the area and Salah was shot in the head by a sniper after buying a bag of bread from a grocery store,” he said. The Palestinian Health Ministry said he died after being rushed to a local hospital in critical condition.
Additional coverage from the Associated Press.
https://www.independent.ie/news/department-of-foreign-affairs-and-eu-partners-condemn-israeli-raids-on-palestinian-ngos-41924309.html Foreign Ministry and EU partners condemn Israeli raids on Palestinian NGOs